The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is importing 55,000 metric tons of maize, thanks to a major contribution of nearly US$22 million from the Government of Malawi. The maize will meet the needs of up to 4.7 million people in drought-affected areas of Malawi over the coming months.
Malawi has been badly hit by two years of drought, most recently as a result of the most intense El Niño weather event in decades. Widespread crop failure has led to a second consecutive national maize deficit and the worst food insecurity in living memory. It is estimated that 40 percent of the population will need humanitarian food assistance by the peak of the lean season during the early months of 2017.
In support of the national response, WFP is currently reaching more than one million people in three districts of Malawi with food assistance and, in areas with functioning markets, with cash-based transfers for people to purchase food.
In response to the severity of the situation, relief operations are being scaled up to reach 5.8 million of the estimated 6.5 million people expected to require food assistance during the peak of the lean season, according to latest data from the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee. International non-governmental organizations are working to cover the needs of the remaining 700,000 food insecure people.
The first consignments of the imported maize started arriving in Malawi in early September from Mexico and then from Zambia, within weeks of WFP agreeing to purchase the cereals on behalf of the Government of Malawi; the final shipment is scheduled to reach Malawi in October.
“We applaud the Government of Malawi for their continued commitment to addressing food insecurity during this unprecedented time of emergency,” says WFP Acting Country Director Mietek Maj. “This contribution provides a critical boost to our maize supply which has been uncertain for the past few months. Being able to respond to people’s needs now is a vital step in protecting development gains already made and in working towards the goal of Zero Hunger.”
An additional pledge of US$8.6 million will bring the Government’s total contribution to WFP to more than US$30 million, making it one of the largest donors to WFP’s emergency response in Malawi. In addition to these funds, the Government has recently provided to WFP some 60,000 metric tons of maize from its Strategic Grain Reserve.
“The President has reiterated his stand that, come what may, his Government will see to it that no Malawian dies of hunger,” said Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, at the launch of the current lean season relief operation in Nsanje district in July this year. “The Government will further support the restoration of livelihoods of drought-affected people through linkages with continuing resilience building activities.”
WFP welcomes contributions from the United Kingdom to cover the associated costs of moving and distributing the maize purchased on behalf of the Government. The United States and Australia have also made contributions for moving the maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve but additional funding is required to transport and distribute this maize.
Significant funding gaps also remain for essential non-maize commodities and cash-based assistance. In total, WFP requires US$100 million to fully meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Malawi till March 2017.