Source: World Food Programme (WFP) |

Urgent Action Critical as Malawi Faces Severe Drought

The situation could further worsen as food stocks are already depleted, inflation rates high and maize prices 40% higher than last year

BLANTYRE, Malawi, May 14, 2024/APO Group/ --

Around nine million people in Malawi are reeling from the devastating impacts of El Niño-induced floods and drought, which are destroying harvests and causing hunger to soar to crisis levels.

Visiting the drought-stricken areas of Malawi, Ms. Reena Ghelani, the UN Climate Crisis Coordinator for El Niño / La Niña Response, Dr. Menghestab Haile and Dr. Patrice Talla, Regional Directors for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), respectively, stressed the crucial need for increased international support for the Government and people of Malawi.

An El Niño-induced drought has severely affected this season’s maize harvest, resulting in a forecasted 45 percent decline against the five-year average and exacerbating food insecurity. About 40 percent of the population could face acute hunger by the end of the year because of the drought. In addition, about 14,000 people were displaced by floods and landslides in the northern part of the country.

On 25 March, the President of Malawi declared a national disaster. The National Response Plan launched in April estimates the needs at US$ 449 million. Similarly, neighboring countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe have also declared national drought emergencies.

During their mission to Malawi, Ms. Ghelani, Dr. Talla, and Dr. Haile met with humanitarian and development partners, as well as Government officials, including the Disaster Risk Management authorities.

“It’s sad to see the farmers' despair because of the drought, through no fault of their own,” said Dr. Menghestab Haile. “They planted and hoped for the best. But, the rains have been poor. There is nothing to harvest, granaries will remain empty at least for another year. Unless we can scale up support, these communities are staring hunger in the face”.

The situation could further worsen as food stocks are already depleted, inflation rates high and maize prices 40% higher than last year. Already, malnutrition cases are on the rise.

The current El Niño episode is happening in a context of recurrent shocks and heightened vulnerabilities, which have severely hindered Malawi's development trajectory. In March last year, Tropical Cyclone Freddy affected over 2.2 million people and damaged critical infrastructure. In 2022, Malawi also faced its deadliest cholera outbreak ever.

“The scale, frequency, and cost of climate shocks emphasize the necessity for increased support to strengthen disaster preparedness and climate adaptation,” explained Patrice Talla.

The Malawian Government has urged support for the national irrigation strategy, which targets 54,000 hectares of land. However, these efforts are hindered by funding shortages: only 40% of the required funds for 2023 were secured.

“While we must prioritize emergency assistance now, we should invest in sustainable solutions that address the root causes of vulnerabilities. The communities in Malawi should be supported to build a resilient and food-secure future”, urged Reena Ghelani.

At the end of 2023, the Central Emergency Fund provided $4 million to assist people affected by extreme weather events and recently announced an additional $13.5 million to support El Niño response efforts in the Southern African region. But much more needs to be done.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).