Malawi: Kick-starting food aid

21 April, 2014
2013, Chiradzulu, Malawi: A food distribution in Chiradzulu in southern Malawi. An estimated 1.8 million Malawians were affected by food insecurity in late 2013. Funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund helped aid groups respond. Credit: OCHA
2013, Chiradzulu, Malawi: A food distribution in Chiradzulu in southern Malawi. An estimated 1.8 million Malawians were affected by food insecurity in late 2013. Funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund helped aid groups respond. Credit: OCHA

By November 2013, with 1.8 million people in need of food aid, Malawi’s humanitarian community faced a dilemma.

For a second consecutive year, the country had suffered late rains, prolonged dry spells and flooding. These factors, coupled with high market prices for fuel, seeds and fertilizer, created a perfect storm for mass food insecurity to return.

Donors were prepared to provide funding, but only if Malawian authorities first released food from their stocks. The Government was willing to do this, but it lacked the trucks and fuel to transport the food to communities in need.

A timely US$8 million allocation from the OCHA-managed Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) helped end the stalemate. About $5.8 million went to the World Food Programme (WFP), allowing it to provide a month’s supply of food for almost 700,000 people, and to transport and distribute Government maize worth $7.5 million.

With the delivery of much-needed food aid under way, donors including Norway, Japan, Ireland and the US released a further $40 million to purchase additional food that would not have been available otherwise.

“We may have died of hunger”

“The food I received has enabled me to support my family, allowing me to look ahead,” said January Nkomo. He lives in a small village in Mzimba district in northern Malawi, where a third of the population needed food aid. “I am very thankful and appreciative. If we had not received the assistance, we simply would not have known where to go—there was nobody we could go to for help.”

January’s sentiments were echoed by his neighbour Mvete Ngoma, who also received help. “Due to dry spells last year, we would have been malnourished by now without help; we may have died of hunger,” he said.

Coco Ushiyama, Country Director for WFP in Malawi, said: “The impact of CERF funds in Malawi has been critical to WFP. It enabled us to deliver the Government of Malawi’s 25,000 tons of maize.”

Between October 2013 and March 2014, WFP helped to feed 1.8 million food-insecure Malawians.

But the CERF allocation covered more than transport costs and WFP food aid. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization received $2 million to provide farmers with agricultural inputs including seeds, fertilizer and tools, and the UN Children’s Fund received $190,000 to protect vulnerable people.

OCHA in Southern Africa>>

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)>>

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