LILONGWE, Malawi- Poverty has been the story of Malawi for some time, as nearly 40 percent of the population lives on less that $1 per day according to a 2010 Millennium Development Goal report. Ranked 170 out of 186 countries in a 2012 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index, Malawi suffers from severe food insecurity because of bad weather conditions, poor harvesting, and unusually high prices in Malawi’s staple food, maize. Landlocked in sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi has become more and more dependent on foreign aid because of a worsening food crisis and other economic factors.
In a report from the 2013 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, it was revealed that an estimated 1.85 million people run the risk of going hungry during this lean season and will likely require food assistance until March. This will affect a record high 24 out of 28 districts in the area. In addition to poverty and hunger rates, Malawi also suffers from reoccurring droughts, floods, and a high prevalence of widespread nutrient deficiencies. These issues are causes for concern for a nation which already suffers from high rates of child stunting and chronic malnutrition.
Minister of Economic Planning and Development Ralph Jooma recently spoke about his hopes regarding the future of the region, “(Our) Government’s vision states that by 2020, Malawi, as a God-fearing nation, will be secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, and self-reliant with equal opportunities for active participation by all.” Jooma plans on reducing poverty rates through economic growth and infrastructural development. With the support of several aiding countries, those goals seem to be in reach.
One of the biggest supporters of Malawi’s food security efforts is the United Kingdom, which has contributed more than $70 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) since 2002. Recently, the U.K. has invested $22 million in the region to provide basic food needs for Malawian families who are unable to do so themselves. Those funds will allow the WFP to assist and reach 910,000 people during the lean season. The funds will also go towards the Purchase for Progress Initiative which allows food purchasing from local smallholder farmers who haven’t endured crop failure. This will benefit the economy as well by increasing farmer’s income and networking opportunities within the market.
The Government of Ireland has also recently made a contribution to the WFP valuing $1.3 million. This will help food assistance efforts for 250,000 people during a pivotal month in the upcoming lean season. In addition, Ireland has also donated $275,000 to aid 18,000 refugees; these funds will last from two months to four months. WFP will also put a portion of the funds towards building shock resilient buildings to help manage risks and sustain natural adversities.
These recent contributions flooding into Malawi could not come at a better time, as large parts of the area are expected to suffer food insecurity throughout 2014. The country’s ode to overcoming adversity is a sign of encouragement and positive things to come. With a looming food crisis on the horizon, Malawi is priming itself to survive another hellaciously dry season.
– Jeffrey Scott Haley