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Hunger grips Dedza

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By Wanangwa Chafulumira:

MALNOURISHED — Sankhani

Thousands of families are faced with starvation in some parts of Dedza forcing women to feed their children animal milk as their breasts cannot produce milk due to hunger.

“I feed my child goat milk because my breast milk has dried up due to lack of food. Maybe you will save us. Our problems have been treated as a big joke or with unbelief. Even the government doesn’t take it seriously.”

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Solimida Sunzi from Group Village Head (GVH) Kapanda in Traditional Authority (TA) Tambala, Dedza Saturday said these words while feeding her one-year-old child goat milk.

Drought due to El Nino weather pattern and fall armyworm infestation have spiralled a breeze-swept escapement in Dedza, once a thriving farming community, bordering Linthipe River and Thuma Forest Reserve, 53 kilometres from M1 Road, into the worst hunger the area has faced in a decade.

Communities are foraging for food in the graveyard where they dig out wild yam-like tubers locally known as mpama.

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“It takes 12 hours for mpama to be ready for consumption. If you start preparing it at 6 am, it will be taken at around 6 pm. We rely on mnkhwani (pumpkin leaves) during the rest of the day. Those who are lucky have madeya (maize husks) to feed on,” Kennedy Mapondera, GVH Kapanda representative, said.

Civil Society Organisation Nutritional Alliance Nutritionist Mike Khunga said it is not recommended to give milk formulas to children below two years but only under some circumstances such as where the mother has diseases such as cancer.

“Goat milk is more preferable because it is easily digestible,” he said.

TA Tambala Area Civil Protection Committee under Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) Treasurer Peter Katamanda confirmed there is extreme hunger in the area.

He said about 3,014 families in GVHs Kudembe, Kapanda, Mpombe, Mlolo, Napwanga and Tambala are facing extreme hunger.

“There is hunger in seven group village heads in TA Tambala and the situation is critical. At the moment, people are eating wild tubers (mpama) which are not good for human consumption. We appealed to the government for relief food but, up to date, there is nothing on the ground.

“The situation is also worse among children and women who are now showing signs of malnourishment. These are poorest people who can’t afford to buy maize on the open market where prices have increased in recent months,” he said.

A bag of maize currently is selling at between K7,500 and K10,000 across the country.

A swollen and sullen face of Chumachawo Sankhani epitomises the continuing tragedy of hunger in the area.

“I mostly sleep on an empty stomach because I have no means to find food. My husband was arrested and convicted last year. He was caught felling trees in Thuma Forest Reserve to make charcoal,” Sankhani said.

She, too soft to be heard, said she went to a nearby health centre where she was diagnosed with anaemia and malnourishment.

Dedza District Commissioner Francis Matewere asked for more time to comment on the situation as he was in a meeting at Mponela, Dowa while Dodma Public Relations Officer Chipiliro Khamula’s mobile phone could not be reached.

DESPERATE — A boy shows mpama

Katamanda said the situation may spill over to the next lean period due to what he called anomalies in Farm Input Subsidy Programme’s (Fisp) handling in the area.

Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and water Development last year suspended 2018/19 Fisp citing anomalies in the distribution chain and redemption of beneficiary coupons.

Through a statement signed by the ministry’s Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule-Phiri, the ministry said the action had been taken to consolidate distribution processes in all the districts as there were anomalies that were reported, including allegations that some people wanted to tamper with the process.

However, a week later, the suspension was lifted on grounds that the validation phase had been deemed successful by all stakeholders.

“The ministry has lifted the suspension of the 2018/19 Fisp coupon distribution as well as redemption of farm inputs using coupons with effect from Monday, November 12 2018. This has been done following initial reconciliation of allocations by a majority of district councils,” reads part of the statement.

The 2018/19 Fisp targeted one million beneficiaries from 900,000 during the 2017/18 farming season and was allocated K42 billion in the 2018/19 national budget out of K151 billion given to Ministry of Agriculture.

The 2018 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee Report projected that at least 3.3 million people in the country will be food insecure this year following a 28.3 percent decrease in maize production in the last farming season.

According to the report, maize production decreased from 3,464,139 metric tonnes (MT) as per the 2016/2017 Third Round Agricultural Production Estimates to 2,697,959 MT as per the 2017/18 third round estimates.

The report said the affected population will require 138,488MT of maize relief worth K23.5 million.

The most affected districts are in the Southern and Central regions.

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