Malawian food crisis
|This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (May 2012)|
An ongoing severe food security crisis is affecting more than five million people in Malawi, especially in the south, caused by the failure to harvest sufficient staple maize due to a drought. Malawi produced just 1.25 million tons or 37% of the 3.4 million tons of maize required to feed its people.
Background and causes
Before the food crisis, the international community had been urging the Malawian government to reduce dependency on agriculture. On international advice the government cut the free seeds and fertilizer program. Corn production fell from 2.4 million to 1.4 million tonnes between 1998 and 2001 as a result. 2000 also saw corn prices deflating, reducing the income of corn farmers and reducing their budget for the next harvest's seed and fertilizer purchases while maize prices have greatly risen.
The harvest season suffered in 2001 and Malawi's government was required to import 150,000 metric tons of food from South Africa. The government has also failed to properly estimate number of food required to donors. Loss of the labour force due to prevalent diseases such as AIDS have put a strain on the food supply. The National Strategic Grain Reserves were sold off on the advice of foreign donors to reduce the budget deficits, and the reserves almost ran dry with no accountability for any profits made from its sale. Malawi National Food Reserve Agency's Board of Directors fired Henry Gaga, accused of sale of maize on interest free credit to private traders and of not reporting huge debts. In 2003 Paul Chimenya, the financial director and his aide were arrested after obstructing an investigation into the agencies records. A donor-funded free seeds and fertilizer program was started in 2003 in an effort to increase production.
In October 2005 Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika called all of the nation a "disaster area" and said the government would spend $50 million to import 330,000 tons of corn from South Africa, but that the country still needs an additional 158,000 tons to sustain the country until next harvest season.
Relief efforts and effects
In 2002 United Nations Children's Fund stated the foreign community was ignoring the crisis. Thereza Banda, Malawi co-ordinator for nutrition, stated that 6,000 children were on the verge of death while 65,000 were malnourished. School attendance also dropped with 500,000 children absent. During the peak of the food crisis in 2002, the government reports 500 people died from starvation.
The World Food Program warned that the number of most vulnerable people was more than five million, and the United Nations is called for a major increase in aid to the region. In August the United Nations appealed for US $88 million of donations to Malawi, with only $28 million pledged.
International aid is also needed to help build irrigation systems. Currently only 2% of cultivated land is irrigated, and the government is trying to increase irrigation to reduce reliance on rainfall.
There is a personal account of the famine by William Kamkwamba in his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The government estimate of famine deaths appears to be severely understated.
- 2005-06 Niger food crisis
- 2006 Horn of Africa food crisis
- 1984–1985 famine in Ethiopia
- 2010 Sahel drought
- Sahel drought
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- "High stakes for Malawi's children as malnutrition rises". UNICEF. 2005-10-14. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- Malawi famine blamed on Aids (26 November 2002) BBC News. Retrieved on 2007-01-04.
- Charles Mkoka, Inside Malawi's Food Crisis (September 26, 2002) Environment News Service. Retrieved on 2007-01-04.
- Malawi expects better crops in coming year (February 23, 2003) Independent Online. Accessed 2007-01-01.
- Associated Press With food crisis worsening, Malawi pleads for aid (October 17, 2005) St. Petersburg Times. Last accessed on 2006-12-31.
- World 'ignoring' African food crisis(20 August 2002) BBC News. Retrieved on 2006-01-04.
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