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Nearly One And A Half Million In Need Of Food Assistance At Onset Of Lean Season

LILONGWE – The Government of Malawi along with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners yesterday launched a relief operation to meet a rise in Malawi’s food needs due to bad weather during the growing season and high food prices. The areas of greatest need are more widely spread than last year and include the traditional surplus areas of central and northern Malawi.

More than 1.46 million people will need food assistance in coming months, according to the July bulletin of the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC). It is widely believed that this figure could increase significantly during coming months. WFP is preparing to scale up its relief operations accordingly though the exact extent of the need will not become clear until after an MVAC assessment update, due to be carried out this month.

Last lean season, some 1.9 million people needed food assistance in 16 districts. This season, as many as 21 out of 28 districts will be affected by hunger, according to the MVAC assessment undertaken in July by a committee made up of the Government of Malawi, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. The report is based on food security data from all areas of the country.

While the most severe levels of need are expected in January to February – the height of the lean season – WFP and its partners are launching their relief operation in October. This is because household food stocks in many areas are already known to be depleted.

The MVAC showed that the most affected households experienced a 50 percent decline in food production due to prolonged dry spells this year. Decreased production has also contributed to maize prices that are up to 100 percent higher than last year.
 
“WFP is working with the Government and key partners to ensure that we can reach those most in need,” says WFP Country Representative Coco Ushiyama. “However, we’re racing against time to secure enough funding to pre-position food before the rains and before food and transport rates increase further. What’s more, the affected area is larger and more dispersed than in recent years.”

WFP and its partners will offer those in need a balanced food basket including maize, pulses, vegetable oil and SuperCereal, a fortified corn soya blend that can be made into a nutritious porridge. Cash transfers for the most vulnerable to buy their own food will also be used in areas where market conditions allow.

As part of the successful Purchase for Progress initiative, WFP will procure as much food as possible from smallholders to cater for the relief operation’s requirements. This way, smallholder farmers that were not affected by crop failure will have an opportunity to link up with formal markets and increase their income.

“The Government is doing everything possible to ensure that those who don’t have enough food from their harvest are reached with food assistance,” says Commissioner and Secretary for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs Jeffrey Kanyinji. “As such, the Government is making available 25,000 metric tons of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserves to support the relief operation. The first tranche of 10,000 tons of maize will be released this month.”

While donors have been generous in their support, WFP is currently only about a third funded for the relief operation that lies ahead. Contributions to date have come from Britain’s UKaid, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Government of Ireland.  

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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.

For more information about WFP in Malawi: http://www.wfp.org/countries/malawi

For more information please contact (email address: rachael.wilson@wfp.org):
Rachael Wilson, WFP/Lilongwe, Tel. +265 177466 ext.2402, Mob. +265 884234915
David Orr, WFP/Nairobi, Tel. +27 11 5171577, Mob. +27 829081417