Malawi on Thursday appealed to the United Nations for assistance in dealing with the current food shortages, a situation estimated to affect about 1.8 million people across the country.
Malawiâ€™s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ephraim Chiume made the appeal when he presided over a UN Day reception in Lilongwe where UNDP administrator and chairperson of the UN Development Group Helen Clark was in attendance.
“I wish to make an appeal, to the UN and its specialised agencies, to work with government in dealing with the emerging food situation in the country. The current estimates show that 1.8 million Malawians are food insecure. As a government, we are committed to assisting these vulnerable people,” said Chiume.
The minister said apart from dealing with the current emergency situation by mobilising and distributing food aid, government is also developing strategies to build resilience among vulnerable communities.
“I, therefore, would like to make a special appeal to the UN and other donors to work with us in the design and implementation of the resilience strategies,” he said.
According to Chiume, the food situation is also one of the issues that Clark discussed with President Joyce Banda when they met in Blantyre.
In late September, the Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) said the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance between October and March has jumped from 1.63 million to about 1.8 million.
Fewsnet said response plans for the situation are inadequate and may be exhausted by November or December.
However, at the time, Minister of Economic Planning and Development Atupele Muluzi, whose ministry chairs the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac), told The Nation of October 2, 2012 that the Fewsnet figures are not reliable.
“The Mvac is the only authority that deals with reliable information in terms of monitoring vulnerability in Malawi. So, nobody can bring out a different outcome or different figures,” said Muluzi.
In July, Mvac said 1.63 million people in 15 districts would need food aid. Incidentally, the Fewsnet assessment that the number of people in need of food aid has risen to about 1.8 million has been borne out, as Chiume announced at the Thursday function.
Speaking at the function, Clark said various UN agencies have already started responding to the call for food aid through the Humanitarian Country Team which is working together with government and NGOs.
“I understand this group is also developing strategy which aims to build local resilience by empowering Malawians and focussing efforts on the underlying causes of food insecurity,” she said.
Chiume assured the visiting UN official of Malawiâ€™s commitment to good governance and the rule of law which, he said, government recognises as pivotal to meaningful and sustained development.
He also said Malawi is grateful to the global body and the entire UN family in Malawi for their contribution towards transforming the lives of the under-privileged.
Chiume said the UN has also been a good partner in accelerating the implementation and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He said although Malawi is unlikely to achieve three MGDs, the country is optimistic that it will achieve the remaining five.
The three problematic MDGs are gender equality, universal primary education and maternal mortality. But Chiume said the country is determined to continue working hard on the three MDGs.
Clark announced that Malawi has been included in a group of 50 countries to provide specific input into the global dialogue for the MDGs to be developed after 2015.
She said this will make the process inclusive and relevant.