Malawi has a population of over 16 million, of which 50.7 per cent live on less than US$ 1.25 a day. Some 13 per cent of children under 5 are underweight, and the country has a HIV prevalence of 10.6 per cent.
The 2017 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) projects that 836,000 people in rural areas will be food insecure in 2017/2018, compared to 6.5 million in 2016/2017. Food insecurity improved significantly due to good rainfall and an above-average harvest. Sub-national nutrition surveys using SMART and/Rapid MUAC assessments are ongoing in drought-affected districts in Malawi, but Global Acute Malnutrition rates are expected to remain above the WHO threshold of 5 per cent.
Food prices in the region remained relatively stable. Due to 2017’s above-average harvest, staple prices in Malawi remain atypically lower than both five-year average. However, there are pointers that the 2018/19 consumption period may bring about some crop deficits as a result of potential drought. This could result in reduced commodities in the market, potentially triggering a maize price increase during the peak lean season.
The fall armyworm infestation that is affecting Southern Africa in 2017 and 2018 also impacted Malawi. On 15 December 2017, the Government of Malawi declared a national disaster: fall armyworm had affected 133,000 households by January 2018. Since 7 February 2018, heavy rains have been received in most districts across Malawi causing floods in Salima, Karonga and Phalombe districts. A total of 894 households (approximately 2,200 people) were affected of which 102 households (approximately 560 people) were displaced. The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) provided food and non-food items (mostly shelter) to those displaced.
Over six million cases of malaria (one-third of the total population) were reported in 2017, according to a statement by the Chief of Health Services, issued on 13 February in Lilongwe. The disease is reportedly responsible for about 30 per cent of all outpatient treatment and 40 per cent of hospital admissions in most health facilities in the country. On average, close to 10 people die daily due to malaria.
Since March 2017, a total of 426 cases of cholera have been reported in Malawi, resulting in 4 deaths.