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4 million people to face hunger

Gracian Lungu

An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis released Monday indicates that between October 2022 and March 2023, the food security situation in Malawi could deteriorate further, with 3.8 million people expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity.

The number of districts classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is also expected to increase from six to 21 out of 28 districts analysed.

In comparison with the past five years, the analysis shows that this year has the highest number of acutely food insecure population which is at 3.8 million followed by the 2018/2019 consumption year which had 3.3 million and the 2021/22 consumption year at 1.4 million.

The projected acute food insecure populations were the lowest in 2017/18 and 2019/20 consumption years, with 1,042,412 and 1,062,663 people respectively.

According to the IPC analysis which was conducted under the patronage of the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee most of the people who will face hunger accounting for 3.2 million, live in rural areas, while 623,000 are located in the four cities of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

“Although official crop estimates show slightly above average maize production compared to the five-year average and lower production than the previous year, prices have remained significantly higher, mostly due to the costs of inputs and global price trends. Overall, the food security situation in rural and urban areas is expected to deteriorate further due to low production of food staples coupled with expected high prices exacerbated by inflation and the impact of the war in Ukraine,” reads the analysis in part.

The report notes that key factors driving this situation are climatic shocks experienced throughout the country, mainly dry spells, cyclones and floods, leading to below-average crop production; economic decline, including the effects of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on fuel and commodity prices.

Further, the report points out the 25 percent devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha, high input prices, leading to high costs of production and low purchasing power; and the continued high food inflation leading to high food prices as some of the factors that have been pushing millions into hunger.

In an interview recently, Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula said under the Tropical Storm Ana Emergency Response Plan and as part of recovery interventions, the department, through the agriculture cluster, plans to distribute farm inputs for families whose crops were destroyed following devastating effects of Tropical Storm Ana.

Khamula said the cluster already sourced K3.1 billion from the Contingency Emergency Response Component under the agricultural commercialisation project.

Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu, who started by noting that the number is not worrisome, highlighted that the country has enough maize.

Lungu said in a worst-case scenario the ministry would use the K12 billion which was allocated to the ministry for maize purchases for free distribution to affected people.

“For now we can say we have maize. But if the worst scenario comes in then the National Food Reserve Agency will come in to provide SGR maize to Dodma to distribute for free to families that cannot afford to procure maize. So, the government is already procuring 50,000 metric tonnes of maize through NFRA using the K12 billion which was allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture for SGR replenishment,” he said.

Meanwhile, the report has recommended that humanitarian response for populations to be affected by hunger should commence in November 2022 starting with the most affected districts for five months.

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