World Vision International
Press Release • Friday, November 4th 2016

El Niño’s impact leaves millions in Malawi facing hunger crisis

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November 3 – Across Southern Africa, tens of millions of people are grappling with the impact of an El Niño drought that has destroyed crops and left people extremely hungry – at least 6.5 million of those people, including 3.5 million children, live in Malawi. 

“Almost 40 percent of people in Malawi are food insecure, meaning they may have enough food this week but they don’t know where their food next week is coming from or how nutritious it will be,” said Thabani Maphosa, World Vision’s Director of Food Assistance.  

“We have seen a devastating rise in child malnutrition rates with more than a third of children showing signs of stunting through lack of access to the right kind of food.  

“It may not reach the technical conditions to be termed a famine but for our teams on the ground and the children and families they work with, it certainly feels like a major catastrophe.” 

For thousands of people in Malawi, life is particularly difficult this year following months of drought that has decimated the farms and land so many rely on for food and income. Nearly every district in the country faces food deficits, ranging from three to nine months.

 “In a village like this I do not dream of having a lot of money. I just want my children to eat good food and go to school,” says mother-of-five Fanny, whose crops were damaged by flashfloods. Fanny joined a food-for-assets programme, where in the midst of an EL Nino drought she received food assistance in exchange for work on local community projects. Her children are now back in school, and she has a small but successful business selling banana fritters on the roadside. 

World Vision is meeting both urgent food needs and long-term programmes to build resilience to the effects of a changing climate that will likely bring worsening droughts. 

In the largest aid effort ever launched in Malawi, and in partnership with the World Food Programme and the government, World Vision is trying to reach more than one million people in urgent need, distributing food baskets that include maize, pulses, vegetable oil and a high-nutrition corn-soya blended mix. 

Much of the south and central area of the country is officially experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity, meaning people don’t have enough food to live, grow and develop properly. Without food assistance parts of the country are at risk of emergency levels, 

Mother of five, Steria, 32, needed a hand to move away from harvesting maize, after her crops produced another low yield. After training with World Vision, she joined a village savings and loans scheme, and bought dairy cows, cattle and fertiliser to begin growing tobacco and beans. She no longer lives in fear of being shamed about the malnutrition her children suffered. 

Even though the El Niño weather phenomenon has passed, Malawi still needs to get through the lean season before next year’s crops are harvested, and that too depends on good rains.