Three months after President Peter Mutharika sounded an SOS on the striking hunger situation in the country, government and its other partners are yet to start distributing relief food items to affected families in the Northern Region a development which has created worry among them.
A Malawi News crew that visited Mzimba North, West and Central constituencies on Wednesday caught sight of starving women and children scrambling for immature cassava tubers and wild fruits now that the Mango season is almost over.
At Kausanthamba Village, people travel over 100 Kilometres to the Zambian border to acquire maize from villages there on credit promising to repay the creditors with tobacco at the end of the 2016 growing season.
It was established that the nearby Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) market at Kazuni and Mpherembe and Rumphi do not have the staple grain in stock and that vendors are charging exorbitant prices for the commodity with a 20 Kilogramme bag fetching as high as K3 500.
“We are desperate and we would do anything to bring food to the table. As I speak we get to far places as Madede where people have maize to give us on credit and we will pay them tobacco in return next year,” said Martha Sailesi.
She also anticipates a tough year ahead saying most families in her village do not have enough land to cultivate enough food, to carry them through the 2016- 2017 agriculture year as most of the area is estate land on which they work as tobacco tenants.
And in the area of Group Village Headman (GVH) Nyambwali Chavula children are staying out of school because they fail to concentrate in class and also teachers are not reporting for duties amid the hunger crisis.
“The hunger has caused a lot of devastation in my area. Four months ago we used to survive on mangoes but we plucked them all and now we are left with nothing. As you can see the children are loitering around. They have no energy to stay in school neither do their teachers have any to deliver lessons,” said Chavula.
“My main cause of worry is the under-five children and lactating mothers who are already severely malnourished. If no urgent help comes forth within this week am afraid we might lose some to starvation,” added the local leader who heads 103 households all of which are faced with acute food shortage.
GVH Nkowani Qoma in the area of Nkhwachi Kumwenda shared Chavula’s sentiments by citing an example of a young girl who collapsed after going on an empty stomach for three consecutive days and was admitted to Kazuni Health Centre.
“I would compare this year’s suffering to that of 1962 when we had inadequate rainfall and men reached an extent of fighting to suckle from women’s breasts. Without doubt that critical stage is nigh,” Qoma explained.
Qoma also decried the number of beneficiaries who have been identified to benefit from a Food Insecurity Response Programme which Plan Malawi International is implementing on behalf of government and the World Food Programme (WFP) saying most deserving households have been left out.
“Of course, the distribution exercise has delayed but the number of beneficiaries is just very decimal if we compare to people who are in dire need, we are questioning the criteria used. As it stands people will kill each other because they won’t let the beneficiaries enjoy meals as they go to bed on empty bellies,” said Qoma.
For instance, in Kausanthambi Village out of the 74 households only 13 will benefit from the relief food items, while in Nyambwali Chavula Village out of the 103 just 37 have been enlisted and in the area of Senior Chief Mpherembe 1,436 families will benefit out of the 40,000 which are vulnerable.
Rosyletie Thole¸46, is a mother of eight and her name is not on the list of beneficiaries in the emergency food response, a development she said is a big blow to her family.
Thole said she and her husband cannot fend for their children and have since given up on piece work because their bodies are too weak to do any manual work in the crop fields.
Speaking separately, Senior Chief Mpherembe called on other well-wishers to rescue the situation saying government’s intervention through Plan Malawi alone is not enough.
But responding to the outcries, Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Manager, Tambuzgani Msiska, for Plan Malawi International said in an interview on Thursday that they are within the timeframe of the project and added that it is impossible for everyone to benefit from the emergency response
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