A report has questioned the effectiveness of humanitarian food assistance initiatives which the Government of Malawi and humanitarian partners are implementing.
According to a Famine Early Warning Systems (Fewsnet) report released Monday, humanitarian support which is in the form of cash and in-kind transfers to 3.8 million food-insecure households may not be enough to avert hunger in the long term.
The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) projected that 3.8 million people in Malawi will face hunger between November 2022 and March 2023.
In response to the report, the government, through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), rolled out the 2022-23 lean season response programme, an exercise that will cost K74 billion.
The expectation is that the initiative will improve food security outcomes for the targeted households, a goal that Fewsnet has questioned.
“In some southern and central districts that experienced large crop losses and reduced labour income due to tropical storms and dry spells in 2022, the level and timing of food assistance are unlikely to be sufficient relative to the scale of need and therefore crisis outcomes will likely persist.
“In addition to weather shocks, slow economic growth and high inflation continue to negatively affect household income and push up staple food prices, reducing household access to food,” the report reads.
Development commentator Kenneth Sakala, who is the Executive Director of Livingstonia Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod Development Department, concurred with the report.
He said giving cash transfers to ultra-poor communities is not enough to address the challenge of food insecurity.
“In addition to cash transfers to ultra-poor communities, what is needed is a cash-plus model. The model implies giving the poor cash and an activity that would be sustainable even if the initiative is halted,” he said.
As part of the current humanitarian support initiative, some households are being given goats.
Sakala said the initiative should be scaled up.
Last month, Dodma started distributing relief food and cash to hunger stricken families under its Lean Season Food Insecurity Response Programme being implemented in 27 districts.
Speaking during the launch of the programme in Nsanje District, Commissioner for Disasters Charles Kalemba said the programme is not facing any funding gaps.
“The total resource requirements for the implementation of the programme are pegged at K74.17 billion, of which K46.91 billion has been mobilised through cash transfers by partners and the African Risk Capacity Programme insurance payout.
“There are no resource gaps in the implementation of the programme, as government has set aside 76,842 metric tonnes of maize valued at around K27.26 billion for the implementation of the programme. However, the total maize requirement may go down after getting additional support on cash transfers,” he said.
Kalemba said Dodma and its partners are implementing two modalities that are cash transfers and in-kind maize distribution.
He said, in accordance with the Mvac report, food insecure people in Zomba District, Zomba City, Balaka, Nsanje and Chikwawa will be reached with food assistance for five months from November 2022 to March 2023, the rest of the councils in the Southern Region will require assistance for four months from December 2022 this year to March next year.
Councils from the central and northern regions will be reached with food assistance for three months from January to March 2023.