Hunger is an enemy to progress. It forced James Nagome, a father of six, to take time off the field. And that would have meant more hunger for his family.
Nagome, of Nakhalamo Village in the southern Malawi district of Phalombe, could not go to work in the fields on an empty stomach.
â€œThis is the time when everyone is busy working in their fields, but I could not do the same because there was no food in my household.
â€œThe situation was manageable for me and my wife, but I felt sorry seeing my children go to school hungry,â€ says Nagome.
Being head of the household, he resorted to fishing in Lake Chilwa, a few kilometres away from his village. But since the lake is drying up, he could not catch enough fish to sustain his family.
Nagomeâ€™s situation qualified him for relief food. He is one of the 70 180 beneficiaries in Phalombe who have received a 50kg bag of maize, 10kg of cowpeas (khobwe) and 5kg of soya beans from the World Food Programme (WFP).
The recent Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) revealed that close to two million people will require food aid during the lean season between December and March 2013.
Nagome is now hopeful that he will prepare his field.
Sharing Nagomaâ€™s sentiments is Joyce Kasonya, a mother of four from Mileme Village, in the same area.
Kasonya says she will share some of relief food with people who have not been lucky enough to receive it.
â€œThis food donation will not only help me, my husband and my four children. It will also help those living close to my house, but were not registered because of the limitations on the number of beneficiaries.
â€œThere is no way I can sit with my children eating porridge while my sisterâ€™s children nearby are hungry,â€ says Kasonya.
It is the first time for Kasonya to receive relief food items, and she says she is proud to see people in her village find relief from their hunger.
Village Head Nâ€™ganjo from the area says the relief foodstuffs will help reduce the impact of hunger in his area.
Nâ€™ganjo says, because of the hunger, many people in Phalombe were engaging in unlawful acts for survival.
â€œSome were going to Mozambique for piecework in order to fend for their families while others were involved in child trafficking to earn quick money. Many ended up being imprisoned,â€ says Nâ€™ganjo.
Other districts that have benefited from the relief food aid are Machinga, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Balaka, Blantyre, Neno, Ntcheu and Zomba.
WFP was approached by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to help with the hunger situation after the Mvac report, which also resulted in a Joint Response Emergency Targeted Food Distribution to benefit affected people in 15 districts in Malawi. It was launched on August 1 by government, WFP and other partners.
â€œSince the launch in August, 700 000 people have received food aid and more are expected to receive it until March with the support and resources that have been sourced from our donors; UKaid-Department for International Development (DfID), United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) and Norway,â€ says Baton Osmani, WFP deputy country director.
Sarah Sanyahumbi, head of DfID in Malawi, says the organisation pumped in Â£10 million (about K5.5 billion) to provide relief aid to the most deserving needy people in the country.
But although some have received the relief food, others were not registered on the list of the beneficiaries.
â€œSo many people were not registered to receive relief food and so we will still have to support each other for as long as the foodstuffs last,â€ says Kasonya.
Given this situation, WFP is calling on donors to support it in reaching out to a cross section of underprivileged Malawians.
â€œWFP is appealing to donors to bridge the remaining resource gap that currently stands at $26 million to continue providing food assistance to the affected population in Malawi,â€ says Osmani.
Secretary and commissioner for DoDMA Jeffrey Kanyinji says prolonged dry spells, high food prices and economic difficulties have left many people across Southern and Central regions of Malawi struggling to get enough food this year, hence the relief food.
â€œThe main reason for the relief food distribution is to empower those people who do not have anywhere or anything to help them,â€ says Kanyinji.