2015 Floods Leave Malawi Facing Worst Food Crisis in 10 Years

The worst floods in living memory struck in Malawi between January and March this year.  Around 230,000 people were displaced and 276 reported dead or missing.

In a statement last week, the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) say the floods washed away food stocks, and ruined fertile land and that the country now faces the worst food crisis in 10 years.

Some crops managed to withstand the floods only to succumb to intense dry spells in the following months, making survival even more difficult for the most vulnerable.

WFP say that people in some affected districts have already started selling their livestock to make ends meet. Women are also engaging in more firewood and charcoal selling, which degrades the environment and further aggravates the fragile climate.

2.8 Million Facing Food Shortages

WFP, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, say that more than 2.8 million people in Malawi will face hunger in the coming lean season, from October to March.

Since the end of last year, WFP has provided relief assistance to avert hunger in households hit by poor rainfall during the 2013 to 14 growing season and the floods in early 2015. This operation has already reached more than one million vulnerable people.

Food and aid distribution in Malawi. Photo: Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP
Food and aid distribution in Malawi. Photo: Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP

Funding Gap

The organisation is now gearing up to respond to what they say is the worst food crisis in Malawi in a decade. However WFP, is currently less than 25 percent funded for the relief operation that lies ahead. US$81 million is still required to meet the needs of the most vulnerable from next month to March 2016.

Life-saving food and cash-based transfers have been given top priority in the response plan which is designed to protect lives and prevent hunger.

The Government of Malawi is helping by contributing 26,600 metric tons of maize from its Strategic Grain Reserves to the relief response.

“We applaud the commitment of the government and development partners in times of increased global needs and appreciate swift support from those that have come forward early, especially the United States and Italy, to ensure that Malawi’s most vulnerable receive the life-saving support they desperately need,” says WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama.

“Additional contributions are urgently needed,” says Ms. Ushiyama.  “We have an innovative toolbox to respond – including food and cash-based transfers.”

Timely funding is essential for an efficient and effective response, especially to enable the pre-positioning of food stocks by November, ahead of the rainy season, in rural areas where road access may be cut off.

malawi floods 2015
Flooding in Malawi – Aerial view of floods in early 2015. Photo: George Ntonya/UNDP