The Malawi food crisis
is an ongoing severe food security
crisis affecting more than five million people in Malawi
, especially in the south, caused by the failure to harvest sufficient staple maize
due to a drought
. Malawi produced just 1.25 million tons or 37 % of the 3.4 million tons of maize required to feed its people.
President Bingu wa Mutharika declared a national disaster on October 15 2005 and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that there are 46,000 severely malnourished children.
Background and causes
Prior the food crisis the international community has been urging the Malawi government to reduce dependency on agriculture. On international advice the government cut the free seeds and fertilizer program. Corn production fell to 1.4 million metric ton from 2.4 between 1998 and 2001 as a result. 2000 also saw corn prices deflated reducing the income of corn farmers and reducing their budget for next harvest seed and fertilizer purchases while maize prices have greatly risen.
The harvest season suffered in 2001 and Malawi government was required to import 150,000 metric tons of food from South Africa. The government has also failed to properly estimate number of food required to doners. Loss of the labour force due to prevalent diseases such as AIDS have also put a strain on the food supply. The National Strategic Grain Reserves were sold off on advice of foreign donors to reduce the budget deficits and the reserves almost ran dry with no accountability for any profits made from its sale. Malawi National Food Reserve Agency's Board of Directors fired Henry Gaga, accused of selling interest free sale of maize to private traders. In 2003 Paul Chimenya, the financial director and his aide were arrested after obstructing an investigation into the agencies records. A donor funded free seeds and fertilizer program was started in 2003 in an effort to increase production.
In October 2005 Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika
called Southern Africa
a "disaster area" and pledged to spend $50 million dollars to import 330,000 tons of corn from South Africa
while pleading that the country still needs an additional 158,000 tons to sustain the country until next harvest season.
Relief efforts and effects
In 2002 United Nations Children's Fund
stated the foreign community was ignoring the crisis. Thereza Banda, Malawi co-ordinator for nutrition, stated that 6,000 children were on the verge of death while 65,000 were malnourished. School attendance also dropped with 500,000 children absent. During the peak of the food crisis in 2002, the government reports 500 people died from starvation.
The World Food Program warned that the number of most vulnerable people was more than five million, and the United Nations is called for a major increase in aid to the region. In August the United Nations appealed for US $88 million of donations to Malawi, with only $28 million pledged.
International aid is also needed to help build irrigation systems. Currently only 2 % of cultivated land is irrigated, and the government is trying to increase irrigation to reduce reliance on rainfall.
UNICEF:Food crisis in Malawi compounded by HIV/AIDS