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WFP Calls for Global Assistance as Malawi Grapples with Impending Food Crisis Caused by El Niño

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for urgent resources to deliver life-saving food assistance to two million people reeling from the devastating impacts of drought, exacerbated by the effects of El Niño. This comes just days after Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of disaster.

The El Niño impact is exacerbating the devastating effects of the climate crisis in Malawi. The country is still suffering from the impacts of tropical storms and cyclones in 2022 and 2023 and the compounded effect is to push up to 40 percent of Malawi’s population into hunger, threatening both lives and livelihoods. Prolonged dry spells have damaged crops in Southern and Central regions, while flooding has washed away crops in Northern and Central areas.

As national maize stocks run low, the country has been forced to import staple commodities, driving food prices to alarming levels. Maize prices nearly doubled in just one year and tripled against the five-year average. With over 80 percent of the population relying on agriculture to cover basic needs, the steep decline in staple crops such as maize, rice, soya beans, cowpeas and groundnuts has been devastating for millions of people.   

“The impact is huge, and so are the needs,” said Paul Turnbull, WFP Country Director and Representative in Malawi. “We can avert a hunger catastrophe for the hardest hit families, but time is not on our side. I’m calling on the international community to step up now and help us save lives.”

On 23 March, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera declared a State of Disaster, in 23 out of Malawi’s 28 districts affected by El Niño conditions. The Government’s preliminary assessment is that close to two million farming households and 749,000 hectares, representing 44 percent of the national crop area have been affected. As a result, the onset of the 2024/2025 lean season is anticipated to be earlier and more severe than usual. WFP will cover part of the food assistance requirements and needs US$ 70 million to provide emergency food assistance to two million people for three months, delivering a combination of in-kind and cash to affected households. Given the long lead times to procure food to address dire humanitarian needs, WFP aims to pre-position supplies by October to mitigate the impact of the coming lean season.

Collaborating with the Malawi Government, particularly the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA), WFP will continue to ensure effective logistics support for the transportation of maize. WFP can also provide procurement and transport services to import cereals.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).

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