Malawi declared state of disaster

14 April 2016
In drought-stricken areas of Malawi, women and girls have reported increased cases of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. © UNFPA Malawi / Henry Chimbali

LILONGWE, Malawi President Peter Mutharika has declared Malawi a state of disaster following prolonged dry spells caused by the El Niño weather pattern dominating the 2015-2016 farming season.

“I appeal for humanitarian relief assistance from the international donor community, the relevant United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, as well as all fellow citizens of goodwill, so that together we can contribute to alleviating suffering on the part of the people who have been affected by the food shortage,” President Mutharika said in a statement released by his office.

International communities, including UN organizations in Malawi, have provided humanitarian response relief to hunger-affected communities, estimated at around 2.8 million people, since October 2015. During this period, women and girls were seen queuing and sleeping at maize selling points to access food. Increased cases of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence were reported by women and girls as they struggled to buy maize.

The central and southern districts of Malawi are the worst affected by the El Niño effect and it means that more people will now require humanitarian assistance.

In the past two months, UNFPA in Malawi has mobilized $60,000 from DFID to support building the capacity of Area and Village Civil Protection committee members in the districts to prevent and report cases of gender-based violence. Training has been carried out in Phalombe, Chikwawa and Nsanje districts and is likely to be scaled up to all districts in the southern and central regions, following the President’s declaration.

Malawi is likely to face a deficit of 1,072,461 mt of maize, a staple food crop for many of its inhabitants. While the Government waits for external support, the distribution of food items to the affected population is to forge ahead. About 52 per cent of Malawi’s population comprises females, while young people below 35 years comprise 80 per cent of the estimated population of 17.2 million.

By Henry Chimbali