James T. Morris, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, has applauded the support shown by donors in helping millions of Malawians survive a major food crisis but urged them to redouble efforts to address long-term needs amid predictions of a better harvest this year.
The generosity shown by donors to support the people of Malawi has been overwhelming
James T. Morris, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa
After a two-day visit to the country, Morris said that recent good rainfall could mean Malawi has a good harvest this year and as a result, for the first time in four years, could turn its full attention to medium-term and longer-term humanitarian projects rather than only focusing on immediate needs.
“It’s still early but if current predictions prove correct, then Malawi may have more food at its disposal this year than in previous years and the Government, with the support of donors, should seize this opportunity to put in place development projects aimed at improving the lives of the poorest people, particularly children,” Morris said as he wrapped up a five-day visit to southern Africa in Lilongwe.
Malawi could be on target to produce its best harvest in nearly six years if rainfall patterns continue as they have over the last two months.
This follows last year’s harvest which was the worst in a decade and left nearly five million people in need of food aid, 2.8 million of them were children under the age of 18 years.
Generous and timely donations from the international community prevented a humanitarian disaster, particularly in the country’s southern districts.
“The generosity shown by donors to support the people of Malawi has been overwhelming,” Morris said.
“Some of the challenges for the year ahead will be to reduce the high rates of acute malnutrition among children, tackle food insecurity issues, address water and sanitation problems, and help the many people who are living with HIV/AIDS, including nearly 500,000 orphans,” he said.
Morris praised the Government’s efforts to meet the food needs of many of its people through to the next harvest as well as its achievement in reaching nearly 38,000 HIV positive people with antiretrovirals by the end of 2005 – a steep increase from some 4,000 people it was reaching in December 2003.
To address some of the medium-term problems in Malawi, the UN launched a ‘Flash Appeal’ last August.
The appeal highlighted the urgent food aid requirements as well as the need for a comprehensive long-term response to help alleviate the plight of chronically poor Malawians, including projects for healthcare, education, water and sanitation, and agricultural inputs.
The appeal has received about US$54 million of the $77 million needed in its revised appeal.
On Friday, Morris met with Government officials to discuss how the HIV/AIDS and food insecurity crisis was impacting the country, and how the UN and other development partners can assist in ensuring that many more vulnerable children have access to school, health care and community-based support.
The Special Envoy visited a home-based care project in Likuni on Saturday where people living with HIV/AIDS as well as orphans and vulnerablechildren receive vital assistance from the UN.
In addition, he visited a nutrition rehabilitation unit at Likuni Hospital whereacutely malnourished children receive life-saving therapeutic food and medicines.
Preventing a catastrophe
“The Government, UN system, NGOs, and donors should all be proud,” Morris said.
“By pulling together in extremely difficult circumstances and pooling resources and coordinating the response, they have managed to prevent a humanitarian crisis from becoming a humanitarian catastrophe.”
“We still have a few months before the next harvest and even though WFP still needs $63 million to buy food through to June, I am confident that we have all saved lives,” Morris added.
Morris is on his fourth trip to Malawi and his sixth trip to southern Africa since becoming the UN Special Envoy for the region in July 2002, several months after being appointed Executive Director of the World Food Programme.