Malawi: 1.6 million face acute hunger due to food shortage

To help families cope with the serious food scarcity, World Vision is providing food aid and supporting alternative livelihoods for families.

By Kathryn Reid and Limbani Davis Nsapato
Published September 1, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

More than 1.6 million people in 15 districts in southern Malawi are coping with serious food shortages, an increase of 200,000 since 2011.

Those struggling to feed themselves now make up nearly 12 percent of the national population.

A turn for the worst

The price of maize has more than doubled, and many families are eating only once a day, says a report from the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee. People are selling household items to buy food and seeking jobs in urban areas.

Lengthy dry spells over the past three years, current high food prices, and recent devaluation of the currency are factors in the current crisis, according to the World Food Program.

For Fatima Tchotcho, an 80-year-old blind woman from Nsanje district, events this year have taken a turn for the worst.

Fatima grows millet to support her five grandchildren, but this year her crop failed.

In the past, relatives would help her farm the garden and supplement her food supplies when her harvest was depleted. But the situation is different this year; her relatives are also hungry.

As a last resort, Fatima sends the children to the Shire River to fetch wild tubers.

“Turning to the tubers is a desperate measure,” she says. “They are hardly tasty or nutritious. Worse still, collection of the tubers from the crocodile-infested river is such a risky venture.”

World Vision responds

The World Food Program estimates that 82,000 tons of food assistance, valued at $48 million, will be needed to meet the needs of hungry Malawi families.

Marko Ngwenya, World Vision’s national director for Malawi, says the government has set aside 27,000 tons of maize. The World Food Program is set to contribute $18 million, funded by the United States and Britain, leaving a shortfall of $30 million.

“This gap is quite huge, hence all [the charitable organizations] working in Malawi are being called upon to help,” Marko says.

In collaboration with the World Food Program and the Malawi government, World Vision is providing food aid and supporting alternative livelihoods for families.

World Vision’s regular programming in Malawi focuses on the well-being of more than 130,000 sponsored children, their families, and communities in 26 of the nation’s 28 districts. Building food security through improved agriculture and irrigation is a top development priority.

How you can help

Make a one-time gift to help provide life-saving food and care in places like Malawi. Your gift will help provide food, agricultural support, livestock, clean water, medicines, and other essential care to hungry children and families around the world.

Pray for children and families affected by the food shortage in Malawi. Pray that those who are hungry would gain access to the food that they need. 

Speak out. Urge members of Congress to protect the International Affairs Budget from drastic cuts. This budget funds life-saving interventions around the world, including Africa. Making up only about 1 percent of the entire budget, there are few places in the U.S. federal budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.