Survival of the fittest
It is a crisis! Hunger is stinging, especially the most local and poor Malawian who, after one of the poorest harvests, is looking up to well-wishers to survive.
Malawi News travelled to Salima in the Central Region; Mzimba in the Northern region and the Lower Shire district of Chikwawa in the Southern Region, and the story is one of desperation.
In Salima, under Traditional Authorities (T/As) Maganga, Pemba, Kalonga and Kambwiri citizens worst hit by hunger and poverty are waiting for government relief items which they said they had been promised to get ‘soon’.
Most of the people that we talked to don’t know what will happen to them because the mangoes that they were relying on have run out and there is no hope that they will get relief food any time soon.
Our investigations further revealed that most of the times, there was no maize in Admarc depots from where people could purchase the grain when they earned a little something from piece-works.
Even when the maize came into the depots, it could last less than a day as vendors purchased it in large quantities and later sold it to the poor at higher prices.
Gladys Malere, a 64-year-old woman in the area of T/A Pemba, told Malawi News that she is one of the people listed to benefit from relief food items which are still not coming.
“Now I am just waiting for what will happen to me and the children. A five-kilogramme bucket of maize is already costing K1,000, yet the money is not there. We just hear that government is saying no one will die of hunger, but the way things are, we are going to die,” lamented Malere.
Her pain was shared by vice-chairperson of Pemba Area Development Committee (ADC), Godfrey Mangani, who disclosed that at a recent meeting, officials had informed the ADC that relief food items would be made available to beneficiaries from next month.
“But even when you look at the number of beneficiaries, it is very small. These are people that are already suffering and it seems government is just giving them some false hopes,” said Mangani.
In the area of T/A Pemba, some GVHs with over 100 hunger-stricken households have between four and 22 households expected to benefit from the relief food items which will reportedly be distributed from next month.
Our visits to some markets in the areas of T/As Kalonga and Maganga found that it was only two or three people selling maize—and at exorbitant prices.
One vendor, in T/A Kalonga, who identified himself as Steve, confided in Malawi News that vendors bribe Admarc officials and buy almost all the maize which they sell to poor people at double the price.
Salima District Agriculture Officer (Dado) Aaron Kachimera told Malawi News that the district experienced a drop in maize yield of about half the harvest of the previous growing season.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has expressed concern over the worsening hunger situation in most parts of the country.
Cisanet National Coordinator, Tamani Nkhono- Mvula, said in an interview on Thursday that his organisation is still of the view that government is aware of the crisis and how it should be dealt with as President Peter Mutharika assured the nation that no Malawian will die of hunger.
He, however, said the promise itself is not enough but real action on the ground because “if we delay further in providing relief food, people will indeed die of hunger.
Commenting on our findings that in some areas, only a few people are being earmarked for the relief food even though those that have been affected are many, Nkhono-Mvula said the arrangement is unjustifiable.
“Government, as a duty bearer, has the responsibility to see to it that the people’s right to food in situations like these is safeguarded through the provision of relief food. If all people are hungry, why giving to a few? What criteria will be used to choose who is to receive and who should not when all people have nothing?
“Currently, we still have a deficit of about 128,000 metric tonnes. The question that we have is: what plans does the government have in clearing this deficit at the same time the humanitarian budget is also facing a huge funding gap of about 46 percent,” queried Nkhono- Mvula.
The Cisanet National Coordinator, however, described as good news the announcement by vice-president Saulosi Chilima that government is setting aside K1 billion as part of preparedness for the effects of El-Nino which is expected to have adverse effects on crop yield and the K2.9 billion insurance premium for the 2015/16 growing season.
“However, as a country I feel we need to come up with strong systems to boost production and productivity. Investing in insurance is a good thing but it will not increase the amount of food being produced.
“What we need is to increase production levels
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