LILONGWE –The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), along with Government and other partners, is gearing up to meet a large rise in Malawi’s food needs due to localised crop failure and high prices. Compared to the previous lean season, eight times as many Malawians will need food assistance in coming months.
"The situation is very serious - our field staff have observed that households in parts of the country have harvested almost nothing,” said WFP Country Director Abdoulaye Diop. “Our first priority will be to make sure that vulnerable people have enough food to sustain themselves through this lean season. At the same time, we must invest in more long-term solutions to build resilience and break the cycle of hunger.”
More than 1.6 million people will need food assistance in coming months, according to a recent report by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC). This represents a major increase from earlier this year when 202,000 people required food assistance. Prolonged dry spells have affected the harvest, and in some areas drought has hit for three consecutive years, weakening the resilience and coping mechanisms at household level.
Along with Government and other partners, WFP is preparing to meet the growing needs of the people with food assistance, including the distribution of locally produced maize, pulses and blended food. Cash transfers may also be made to the most vulnerable, enabling them to buy their own food in areas where market conditions allow.
As many as 15 out of 28 districts are affected by the deteriorating food security, according to the MVAC report which is prepared by a committee comprising the Government of Malawi, UN agencies, and academic and non-governmental organisations.
While the most severe levels of food insecurity are forecast for December-March – the typical lean season in Malawi – a relief operation is being mounted in August this year. A late onset of rain and untimely dry spells have resulted in decreased maize production, by as much as 40 percent in some areas. The effects will be most severely felt in the southern parts of the country.
The recent devaluation of the national currency by 49 percent, coupled with soaring inflation at 17.3 percent, has produced sharp increases in the prices of basic goods and services, pushing the cost of living to unsustainable levels for many Malawians. Food prices have been particularly affected by high transport costs due to increases in the price of fuel. Retail maize prices have already increased by 50 percent compared to the same time last year, and are expected to increase in the lean season.
WFP is urging donors to provide rapid funding support to assist more than one million people starting from August, covering the period until March 2013. The Government of Malawi will donate 25,000 mt of maize, valued at US$5.8 million, to be drawn from the Strategic Grain Reserve; cash donations to transport and distribute the food is needed.
WFP’s emergency intervention will be implemented in tandem with medium and longer-term assistance, including school meals, programmes to boost the nutrition of malnourished children and mothers, and resilience-building activities to address chronic food insecurity and disaster risk reduction.
For more information please contact (email address: email@example.com):
Abdoulaye Diop, Country Director, WFP Malawi, Tel. +265 1 774 666
Pamela Kuwali, WFP/Lilongwe, Tel. +265 1774 66
Stephanie Tremblay, WFP/Nairobi, Tel. +254207622594, Mob. +254 707 722 106