The World Food Programme (WFP) says it will provide food aid to 2.4 million people nationwide, representing around 85 percent of the 2.8 million starving Malawians government says it needs to help.
The global food agency has already started distribution, with 844 households or 4 642 people currently being targeted in Chikwawa District.
Speaking in an interview in Lilongwe on Friday after the symbolic handover of maize, pulses, super cereal and cooking oil, WFP country representative Coco Ushiyama said her organisation embarked on the exercise from October 1 in Traditional Authority (T/A) Ngabu’s area.
In total, she said, WFP will provide assistance to 2.4 million people while the remaining 400 000 will be covered by other partners.
Besides cereals and other items, fortified blended food will also be provided to pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under the age of two to help prevent malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies that contribute to stunting.
Said Ushiyama: “Based on the current Mvac [Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee] findings, 70 percent of the food insecure population is recommended to receive in-kind food assistance while the remaining 30 percent will be targeted with cash-based assistance.”
However, she said to complement the humanitarian response, WFP requires funding to maintain its school meals programme and supplementary feeding programme which are vital safety nets that help protect hard-won development gains during this time of increased food insecurity.
Ushiyama said the situation could worsen, especially during the rainy season as the weather forecast predicted a possibility of a heavy cyclone that could hit the country hard.
She said: “This might result in a double tragedy to Malawians as the number of people who shall require food assistance could be more than the 2.8 million.” Latest statistics now put the figure of Malawians facing starvation at 3.3 million.
Under the WFP package, 1.9 million will receive food assistance and 431 000 are targeted for cash to buy food.
Last week, Vice-President Saulos Chilima said following President Peter Mutharika’s appeal for assistance to feed 2.8 million people, donor pledges stood at $45 million (about K25 billion) as of Friday. But the money mobilised so far is just around 30 percent of what President Peter Mutharika said is needed.
In sending the save our souls (SOS) call on September 21, the President said the Food Insecurity Response Plan required $146.378 million (about K83.4 billion) as per results of Mvac food insecurity assessment exercise carried out between June 8 and July 2 this year after serious floods and a drought that adversely affected food production by about 30 percent.
Chilima said the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), Brazil,
Unicef, Save the Children Italy, WFP and the Word Bank are among the development partners that have since pledged their support towards resolving the food crisis.
On Friday, Britain announced it would provide K8.75 billion towards food aid.
According to Chilima, the funds from development partners were being channelled through a basket managed by the donors themselves while the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) will only be coordinating.
Mvac estimates show that 2 833 212 people will require humanitarian food assistance during the 2015/16 consumption year for a period of three to eight months starting from October 2015.
Earlier this year, Malawi experienced a combined effect of floods and drought that caused damage estimated at $448 million (at least K246 billion), according to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment.