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Prince Henderson

Almost four million Malawians are battling severe famine due to poor or no harvests because of the effect of El Nino, which last year affected most of the country’s southern and northern regions. The numbers of those starving could double by the end of the year.

Kuona Lampiyawo, a subsistence farmer is a married man with two children and based in the lower district of Nsanje. He is into livestock and crop farming.

According to Lampiyawo, he has been doing well in farming for the past several years, thanks to interventions of new farming methods rendered to him and the rest of fellow community members by the development arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi’s Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) – Caritas Malawi and like-minded organizations.

“It is so terrible this year because we don’t have enough food to eat. Children are becoming malnourished and they are not able to go to school due to the hunger situation that has hit our country especially here in the lower shire,” said Lampiyawo, indicating that all is because of the dry spells caused by the EI Nino phenomenon that hit Malawi.

According to reports, almost four million Malawians are battling against severe famine due to poor or no harvests because of the effect as caused by El Nino, which last year affected most of the country’s southern and northern regions.

The number of hungry people is expected to rise to eight million by December 2016 and this is exactly half of the population.

Torrential rains in the north aggravated the already dramatic situations, and in February a state of emergency was declared.

In the meantime food prices continue to rise as Malawi’s Kwacha continues to lose value, forcing the poorest families to further reduce their already precarious daily meals, or to sell goods in order to make ends meet. 

According to a report by World Food Program (WFP) of May, 2016, in most parts in Southern Africa harvesting is well underway, temporarily alleviating some market pressure and allowing for food price improvements in pockets of the region as people consume their own production.

The report, however, states that, crop expectations remain poor following one of the driest seasons in 35 years with seasonal rainfall deficits experienced throughout the region, particularly in central and southern Malawi.

“For this reason, food prices, which have remained unusually high as compared to the seasonal trend, are expected to increase again in the coming months. The current price of a 50kg bag of maize is almost $13 against a price of $2 in normal year. In a country whose citizens live below $1 a day, this is really a sorry state of affairs,” reads the report.

To date, six countries in Southern Africa (Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique and parts of South Africa) have made declarations of drought-induced disasters, emergencies or alerts, reads part of the WFP report.

It is against this background that poor households like that of Lampiyawo were hit hard by drought this season hence this is an indication that he and the rest will typically continue to experience food consumption gaps.

“For this reason we will experience low crop yields and we will need to rely on purchasing food on the market sooner in the year than usual – meaning that the downward price trend will be short-lived and as such we won’t manage to buy maize on the market which is extremely high in price,” lamented Lampiyawo. He called upon local and international organizations to generously come in to assist with food.

The Director of Social Development for the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Carsterns Mulume, whose Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) is mandated to assist in situations like Lampiyawo’s, said more support is needed to address the situation.

“There is need to focus much on sustainable irrigation, preparedness and climate smart agriculture. This is only possible if partners provide support to Caritas Malawi to reach out to these communities, “said Mulume.

* Prince Henderson is Communications Officer at the Episcopal Conference of Malawi.