Malawi In Dire Need of Immediate Measures Amidst Devastating Drought Conditions

Blantyre — In Malawi, approximately nine million individuals are grappling with the catastrophic effects of El Niño-triggered floods and droughts, which are decimating crops and propelling hunger levels into a crisis state.

During a visit to the drought-afflicted regions of Malawi, Ms. Reena Ghelani, the UN’s El Niño / La Niña Response Climate Crisis Coordinator, alongside Dr. Menghestab Haile and Dr. Patrice Talla, who serve as Regional Directors for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), respectively, highlighted the urgent need for amplified international aid to bolster the Malawian Government and its populace.

The country has seen its maize production severely diminished by an El Niño-driven drought, with projections indicating a 45 percent drop compared to the five-year average, intensifying the food security crisis. It is estimated that 40 percent of Malawians might encounter severe hunger by year’s end due to this drought. Meanwhile, floods and landslides in the northern regions have displaced about 14,000 people.

On 25 March, Malawi’s President announced a national disaster. An April-initiated National Response Plan discerns the financial needs at US$ 449 million. In a similar plight, Zambia and Zimbabwe have declared national drought emergencies as well.

Throughout their Malawian mission, Ms. Ghelani, Dr. Haile, and Dr. Talla engaged with both humanitarian and development allies, in addition to meeting Government officials, including those in charge of Disaster Risk Management.

“It’s heartbreaking to witness the agricultural despair amongst farmers due to the drought, through no fault of theirs,” remarked Dr. Menghestab Haile. “Despite their efforts in planting and hoping for rainfall, the inadequate rains promise nothing for harvest. Without adequate support, these communities are facing immediate hunger threats,” he added.

The predicament is set to exacerbate as existing food supplies dwindle, inflation escalates, and maize prices skyrocket by 40% compared to the previous year. Cases of malnutrition are already climbing.

This instance of El Niño occurs amidst recurrent adversities and escalating vulnerabilities, further stalling Malawi’s path to development. Last March, Tropical Cyclone Freddy impacted over 2.2 million individuals and wreaked havoc on vital infrastructure. Furthermore, in 2022, Malawi bore witness to its worst cholera outbreak.

“The magnitude, repetition, and expenditures associated with climate shocks call for heightened efforts in bolstering disaster readiness and climate adaptability,” stated Patrice Talla.

The government of Malawi has appealed for support towards a national irrigation scheme aiming to cover 54,000 hectares of land. Despite these ambitions, funding falls short, with just 40% of the 2023 needs met.

“While immediate emergency aid remains a priority, we must also focus on sustainable measures tackling the root causes of such vulnerabilities. It’s crucial to empower Malawian communities towards achieving resilience and securing a food-sufficient future,” emphasized Reena Ghelani.

As 2023 concludes, the Central Emergency Fund allocated $4 million in assistance for those impacted by extreme weather conditions, with a recent announcement of an additional $13.5 million dedicated to El Niño response actions within the Southern African territory. Nevertheless, the necessity for further action remains pressing.

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