Despite government claiming no one will die of hunger, scores of people in Dowa could be at risk of experiencing food shortage as our investigations have revealed traits of hunger in the district.
A visit to some areas in the district showed that some families are surviving on boiled cassava leaves.
The villagers have since resorted to asking well-wishers, including the government, to help supplying them with food before people start dying.
Malawi News visited several villages to assess the hunger situation and the situation on the ground was not rosy, especially in Kanyangala, Nambuzi and Mphaka villages.
We found out that people are sleeping on empty stomachs and may face worsening hunger if nothing is done to curb the severity of the acute food shortage worsening by the day in the area.
Some people in traditional authorities Dzoole and Mponela told us they are relying on cassava leaves, pumpkin leaves and other wild foodstuffs to survive.
According to our investigations, some people, especially women are skipping medication of life-prolonging drugs – ARVs – due to hunger.
Lezina Acheson confirmed to us that she has stopped taking ARVs because she has no food.
She explained that the maize she harvested only lasted for two months – June and July – and since then well-wishers have been assisting her family.
“I have nowhere to go to beg for food. I can’t look for piecework because I am sickly and weak. Maize is becoming scarce but even if it was readily available, I cannot afford a 50 kg bag which is going at K15,000. As it is now, everyone in this village is fighting for his or her own life. The only food I can access are the bitter cassava leaves but for how long?” she said.
Sitting next to her quietly was her daughter Naluso who was supposed to be taking care of her but unfortunately she was hit by high blood pressure which developed into a stroke leaving the ailing mother to be her caretaker and guardian.
Malawi News also visited Chamaza Chande, another woman who is also on ART.
Chande confessed to us that she collected some food friends and families which she said would last her for at least three days.
Dowa District Commissioner Alex Mdooko said they conducted a research which indicates that this time last year the district had 4.9 percent of the households without food and this year it is at 7.9 percent, a development which means the situation has worsened this year.
“As a district, we informed government through Dodma who also took note of the findings of the MVAC report and our district report and they responded by promising us, meaning now the whole Malawi a quick response through a once and for all maize distribution,” he said.
District Agriculture Development Officer for Dowa East Sellina Malaga said is aware that prices for maize are quite high as compared to last season, making it difficult for some families to afford it.
She, however, said the relief maize by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) will target such families.
“Compared to last season, the district is at 7.4 percent households without food while last season during the same period we were at 4.9 percent. Dodma will soon start a once-off maize distribution programme, we have been allocated 246 metric tonnes of maize for the district and preparations to start distribution are in progress,” Malaga said.
Minister of Information, who is also government spokesperson, Mark Botomani asked for more time to investigate.
A recent report by Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee showed that 1,026,674 people, out of estimated Malawi rural population of 14,747,257, will not be able to meet their annual food requirement during the 2019/20 consumption period.