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Villagers survive on mangoes

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Hunger has started taking its toll forcing 103 villagers in Nyambwani Chavula area in Chief Mtwalo in Mzimba District to make do with boiled green mangoes.

A Malawi News crew on Wednesday travelled to the village, situated 75 km a from Mzuzu City in the northern part of Mzimba District, where a mother of five, Florence Mughogho, was found boiling 15 mangoes for her children’s supper.

Other families and group village headman Nyambwani Chavula that we talked to said they started relying on mangoes last month because of acute food shortage due to the drought that has hit the area.

The hunger has devastated the families as men travel long distances to look for piece work to buy maize but the country’s staple food is not even available at their nearest Kazuni Admarc Market.

“I usually boil 15 mangoes for my five children. Each one takes three and drinks water. I prepare mangoes three days per week. On the other days, we eat porridge from the little flour we get after doing some piece work. It is hectic because we are abused by our employers who give us K5 per one 10 metre ridge,” said Mughogho, adding, “For us to get K100 we have to make 20 ridges. We have no choice. There is no other source of income.”

Make Ngwira, a father of four, from the same village, said the hunger situation has become unbearable and parents feel bad when the children come back from school and find no food at home.

“As parents, our concern is the children. We feel bad when children come back from school and find there is no food in the house. Many children have stopped going to school because of hunger. Our bodies have become weak because we lack a balanced diet. We cannot contribute to any socio-economic activity,” said Ngwira.

Village Headman Nyambwani Chavula said none of his 103 villagers harvested maize because of drought. He said the mango season has come as a relief to the people in the area.

“There is no granary with maize in this area. Families spend their time searching for piece works. The only reliable food here is mangoes.

“We ask the government to come to our rescue. The other year we experienced hunger, government also helped us. We are waiting for that food assistance again. Parents wake up without any hope of finding food,” said Nyambwani Chavula.

The village head also said the villagers are abused by those that hire them to do piece work because they get too little from their sweat.

“People have no choice. Imagine, making 20 ridges of 10 metres each and getting K100 in total as payment.

Isn’t that slavery? The government should not just focus its attention on the people from Lower Shire; we are also starving here,” he said.

Livingstonia Synod Aids Programme (Lisap), which implements a Growing Community Impact Programme targeting vulnerable groups, said over 200 people living with HIV and Aids in its support groups in the area have complained that the practice of taking ARVs while hungry negatively impacts on their health.

“We have heard of such concerns,” said the projects officer Chawanangwa Ng’ambi.

Asked when the government would start distributing relief maize, Minister of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development, Allan Chiyembekeza, said the distribution exercise was launched last week by the World Food Programme.

Chiyembekeza also said maize was distributed to Admarc markets and wondered why there was none at Kazuni.

Commenting on the hunger situation in the area, Chiyembekeza was shocked and surprised. “I am not aware of what is happening there.”

President Peter Mutharika declared that 2.8 million Malawians were in dire need of food aid following serious floods and drought that adversely affected food production by about 30 percent.

Mutharika said the Food Insecurity Response Plan required US$146.378 million (about K83.4 billion) as per results of Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee food insecurity assessment carried out between June 8 and July 2 this year.

Meanwhile, World Food Programme has started distributing relief food to 2.4 million people on October 1 in Traditional Authority Ng’abu in Chikwawa District.

Unicef, Save the Children Italy, WFP and the World Bank and Britain are among the development partners that are helping Malawi in resolving the food crisis. Britain announced it would provide K8.75 billion.

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