United Kingdom’s (UK) Department for International Development (DfID) has given Malawi £24 million (about K23 billion) as a contribution to the government’s National Disaster Response Plan.
In a statement issued yesterday by the British High Commission in Lilongwe, DfID said UK Development Minister Nick Hurd confirmed the support on Wednesday during a telephone discussion with President Peter Mutharika.
Malawi is facing a second back-to-back year of food shortage resulting from combined effects of drought and dry spells that reduced harvest and put 6.5 million people in need of food assistance over the next nine months, according to an assessment by Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) Food Security Assessment.
In the statement, Hurd was quoted as having said: “The UK has been at the forefront of preventing and preparing for the effects of El Niño in the world’s poorest places, by getting life-saving food, clean water and shelter to people in desperate need, and by building nations longer- term resilience to cope with climate shocks.”
The funds are scheduled to cover activities such as nutritional screening of about 800 000 children and treatment of approximately 150 000 children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and vulnerable adults suffering from acute and moderate malnutrition.Besides, according to 2016 the statement, the money will also support winter cropping, irrigation and early strategic maize procurement for emergency distribution and agricultural assets work.
The statement also quoted DfID Malawi representative Philip Smith as having said: “Early and decisive action is required now to avert a larger disaster. The UK is acting swiftly to respond to the Government of Malawi’s humanitarian appeal.”
In February this year, the UK gave K4.8 billion towards the food crisis in the country which the visiting Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, said would provide life-saving support to hundreds of thousands of Malawians.
In April this year, President Peter Mutharika appealed to local and international well-wishers to assist the country mitigate the impact of the drought and floods
SMP attacks UK visa system
The Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) has criticised the ineffective handling of United Kingdom (UK) visa applications, saying it has the potential to undermine what it calls dignified partnership with Malawi.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, SMP—a non-profit umbrella organisation which coordinates activities of Scottish individuals and organisations with existing links to Malawi—said it has lost confidence in the handling of visa applications by the UK Government for those invited to Scotland from Malawi.
In 2007, the UK Government moved the handling of visa from Lilongwe to Pretoria in South Africa whereby applicants have to use online and cashless systems.
The statement said it is pathetic that Malawians have to pay online, in foreign currency, using an international bank card—something that is not applicable for more than 99 percent of the population.
Reads the statement in part: “In recent weeks, we have seen a new low, with repeated embarrassing errors being made by those handling visa applications, resulting in more cancelled visits.
“We have had a deputy director of the government of Malawi sent a letter rejecting his UK visa application, for the second time, because he had not included his wage slips as evidence, yet he had included these wage slips, and these were returned in the same envelope as the rejection letter.”
SMP has called on the UK Government to launch an independent inquiry into UK visa issuing systems in Africa, and hopes that it could consider returning visa handling to Lilongwe where the British High Commission is well equipped and positioned to make informed decisions in a timely and practical manner.
British High Commission in Malawi spokesperson Benson Linje said yesterday they are aware of the article published by the SMP regarding the UK’s visa service in Malawi and have regular dialogue with the SMP on this issue.
“We work hard to ensure that our hub-and-spoke model helps to ensure that visa applications are processed consistently and welcome feedback to improve the system,” he said.
SMP has an 11-year partnership with Malawians and has coordinated a number of visits of individuals between the two countries.
Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell visited the country earlier this year.