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$35 million deficit halts WFP’s disaster

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The World Food Programme has said funding constraints have forced it to phase out its cash transfer initiative from December to March 2017 for the vulnerable people who were hit by El-Nino drought during the 2015/2016 growing season.

The organisation’s country representative, Coco Ushiyama, said they have a shortfall of $35 million. The development means that there will be a reduction in the number of beneficiaries of the initiative.

But Secretary to the Vice President who is also Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Ben Botolo, said that there is no need for worry as the country has enough food.

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According to Ushiyama, available funds are enough to cover only half of the 1.7 million people that were supposed to get cash assistance from December to March 2017.

“The cash transfer and the food security response will be reduced by December due to the funding challenges that will reduce beneficiaries,” Ushiyama said.

She said the situation means that there is need for more awareness on the hunger situation for more funds to come for the continuation of cash transfer after December.

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WFP has been giving out cash assistance to the hunger stricken people in areas facing severe hunger to enable them purchase maize and other to foodstuffs from local markets.

Ushiyama said of the $35 million shortfall, $15 million is the shortfall for the cash transfer while the remaining $20 million is the funding gap for the food assistance.

“For the cash and food transfers, we want to continue until March next year but we cannot do so until we get the $35 million shortfall. The 1.7 million people were supposed to get the cash transfers but we only have funding for about half the people. As such, some cash transfer beneficiaries will switch to food transfers because what we are beginning to see in December is that with the food prices going up, it will be difficult for cash transfer beneficiaries to obtain their food. So from December to January, people who will remain on the cash beneficiaries’ list will switch to food assistance,” she said.

However, Botolo said government is in control of all the affairs as it has received money from the World Bank and from the insurance which it obtained. He said part of the money was given to WFP to buy maize while the other money will be used to buy beans and pigeon peas to be distributed together with the maize.

“As a matter of fact, most of the money which WFP is using is government money. There is no money such as WFP money. World Bank has given us money which we are using WFP to procure maize due to the fastness of their systems. We are also working on the insurance where we have gotten $8.1 million to buy relish such as beans and pigeon peas,” Botolo said.

On the cash transfer, Botolo said in case the initiative is not available, the beneficiaries will be taken on board on the distribution of the food items.

Since President Peter Mutharika declared Malawi a state of emergency, the European Union through WFP and Red Cross started implementing the longest and largest disaster response from July 2016 to March 2017 which started with 250,000 people in Nsanje.

The project, according to Ushiyama, is now reaching out to at least six million people as of November.

“We were giving half ration at the onset of the initiative but we moved to full rations. Unfortunately, for the none-maize assistance, were are going half rations while for maize we are going 100 percent. Our major concern is the cash transfer which is having a very wider gap,” she said.

Currently, 6.7 million people are feared to be hunger-stricken, according to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report.

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