United States of America (USA) second lady Dr. Jill Biden, who leaves the country today after a three-day visit, yesterday announced that her government will donate $20 million (about K14 billion) more in food assistance to support vulnerable, food insecure communities.
The $20 million support brings the US’s total contribution to the humanitarian response since October 2015 to $74.7 million (about K52 billion).
Biden made the announcement on Tuesday at Chimbiya Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Machinjiri in Blantyre where she toured a United States Agency for International Development (USaid) Food for Peace programme which is helping to address challenges posed by the severe drought which rendered the country a state of national disaster.
“Southern Africa is experiencing an historic drought exacerbated by the strong impacts of the El Nino weather event. Multiple years of erratic weather and poor agricultural harvest have contributed to a vicious cycle of food insecurity and malnutrition.
“Over 6.5 million people in Malawi are in need of humanitarian assistance. Households in southern Malawi are the most drought affected and at risk of food insecurity. I have had the opportunity to meet those directly impacted by the food crisis and they have told me about their challenges,” said Biden before making the announcement and expressing the US government’s commitment to supporting the region, including Malawi, during the difficult months ahead.
In her remarks, US Ambassador Virginia Palmer said her government is working closely with the Government of Malawi and other development partners to ensure hunger does not roll back the important development gains made in Malawi, particularly for women and girls.
Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano, who was playing host to the US second lady during her visits, expressed gratitude to the $20 million support announcement by saying it goes in line with the call for international assistance made by President Peter Mutharika in April when he declared Malawi a State of National Disaster.
Biden also visited Msamba Primary School in Zomba where the World Food Programme (WFP) is implementing the US Department of Agriculture’s Food for Education Programme.
She was joined by WFP executive director Ambassador Ertharin Cousin who is in the country to meet government officials and beneficiaries of WFP food assistance including drought–affected people in Zomba and Lilongwe districts.
Malawi is at the moment going through one of its worst hunger situations in recent years. In April this year Mutharika declared Malawi a State of National Disaster caused by prolonged dry spells during the 2015/2016 season and appealed to local and international well-wishers to assist the country mitigate the impact of the drought and floods.
As a response to President Mutharika’s appeal, apart from the US government, several international donors have come in to assist the country. Recently, United Kingdom’s (UK) Department for International Development (DfID) gave Malawi £24 million (about K23 billion) as a contribution to government’s National Response Plan. In February, the UK also gave K4.8 billion towards the food crisis. Last month, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and government signed a $1 million (about K715 million) grant for a humanitarian emergency assistance to mitigate the floods and El Nino impact.
Last week, government launched the 2016/2017 Food Insecurity Response Plan (Firp) which is expected to support 6.5 million people in need of food aid between September 2016 and March 2017, requiring $380 million (K274 billion).
Mutharika, speaking at the launch, said there is $116 million (K86 billion), out of which $50 million (K36 billion) is government contribution.