Malawi is a small landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa, bordering Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. It covers an area of 118,500 km2 and has an estimated population of 14 million. The country is defined as low-income and ranks 171 out of 187 countries in the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index. Over 40 percent of the population live on less than US$1 per day (2010 Government of Malawi MDG Report). Landholdings are generally small, particularly in the densely populated south, leading to the over-use of marginally productive agricultural land, causing soil erosion and nutrient depletion. More than 40 percent of rural households cultivate less than half a hectare, mainly devoted to maize production.
Large parts of Malawi are expected to suffer from food insecurity this year. Agricultural production estimates for the 2012 harvest season show a decrease in maize production by as much as 40 percent in some areas, following poor onset and erratic distribution of rains in the country. Combined with the impact of high food prices, the Famine and Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) suggests that a food emergency could start as early as July 2012 and last for 9 months. These problems, in combination with other structural causes of food insecurity in Malawi, have exacerbated vulnerability in rural and urban areas. Roughly one million people could require emergency assistance to meet basic food needs.
In April 2012, Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president and only the second woman to lead a country in Africa. In May 2012, the Malawi kwacha was devalued by 49 percent. The devaluation, coupled with soaring inflation of 12.4 percent (as of May 2012), has produced precipitous increases in the price of basic goods and services. A report from the Centre for Social Concern indicates that the cost of living in urban areas has increased by nearly 50 percent from January 2011 to January 2012. Retail prices for the staple, maize, were higher in March than last year and the 5-year average by 40 percent.
The stunting rate for children under 5 is 47 percent, while the wasting rate is 4 percent (Malawi Demographic Health Survey, 2010). An estimated 27,000 people in the country are infected with TB.
Since 1990, Malawi has hosted an average of 14,000 refugees, mainly from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Rwanda at Dzaleka refugee camp.
Malawi faces a host of food-related challenges. These include chronic food insecurity among poor and vulnerable households, some of them refugees; recurrence of natural disasters such as drought and floods; high cost of living; high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and widespread micronutrient deficiencies; high rates of dropping out, repetition and absenteeism among primary school children from food-insecure households; and low income for smallholder farmers due to poor agricultural market structures and policies.
Country Programme (2012 -2016) CP 200287
Assistance to Food Insecure People Suffering from the Effects of Natural Disasters (PRRO 105860)
Assistance to Refugees (PRRO 200087)
Purchase for Progress (P4P)
Read more on WFP Malawi Operations Brief (2009).