Massive Food Crisis Threatens 500,000 Children in Malawi

Action Against Hunger Launches New Emergency Program Targeting Most Vulnerable Families
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Drought and devastating floods have driven families across Malawi into an historic food crisis. Photo: ACF-Malawi, S. Vera

Highlights

  • Severe flooding, erratic rainfall, and drought in 2015 have spiralled Malawi into the worst food insecurity the nation has faced in a decade
  • Today, nearly three million people (including more than 500,000 children under the age of five) face serious  hunger and dangerous food shortages
  • Action Against Hunger has launched a new emergency response program in Malawi to screen and treat vulnerable children for severe malnutrition and to mitigate hunger in affected communities 

Dangerous food shortages

Drought and erratic rainfall in late 2014 and early 2015 damaged crop production in Malawi. “The government has estimated that corn production has fallen by 27 percent compared to last year, and is down by 20 percent compared to the average of the past five years,” said Lucia Prieto, Action Against Hunger’s program officer for Malawi. Then a bad situation got worse. Severe floods in 2015 caused by unusually heavy rainfall ruined crops, damaged homes, and killed livestock. These extreme weather events have taken a huge toll on communities that depend on farming for survival: the food stocks of vulnerable families have been depleted or lost. 

 “People are now in a situation where they have no choice but to cut back on food. They are eating smaller, fewer meals per day,” said Mikel Mendoza, Action Against Hunger’s Emergency Response Coordinator. “This hurts the nutritional status of pregnant and nursing women. It drives people into crisis. People sell whatever assets they may possess just to buy food and meet their basic survival needs. Then they have nothing left to pay for health care services or education fees for their children, not to mention reserves to get them through future shocks or emergencies.”  

When families are faced with loss of assets, limited food choices, high food prices, and poor access to health care, children are at particularly high risk of severe malnutrition, especially if their health is already vulnerable due to poor care and feeding practices. 

According to data from the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC), 2.8 million people across the country are now facing a dangerous food crisis and are in urgent need of immediate emergency assistance. That includes 537,000 children under the age of five. Of those, an estimated 20,000 are at serious risk of severe acute malnutrition, according to MVAC.

Action Against Hunger mobilizes immediate response to save lives

Even before the Malawian government issued an urgent call to action to the humanitarian community, we had already begun assessing needs and preparing a response. We will work in partnership with Malawi’s health authorities to respond to the alarming increases in numbers of severely malnourished children—and to scale up interventions to reach, screen and treat at-risk children this winter.

“We consider it essential to work hand in hand with Malawi’s Ministry of Health,” said Mikel Mendoza. “We are launching a coordinated response—and working to identify and strengthen all aspects of how we will work together to identify malnourished children in at-risk communities and deliver lifesaving treatment.”

The first phase of our response will prioritize emergency nutrition interventions to deliver support and treatment to the most vulnerable children. The second phase will focus on helping communities recover crops and livelihoods to ensure they have secure sources of income and food. The third phase of our programming will be aimed at building resilience, ensuring emergency preparedness, and working with the most vulnerable communities to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters.  

Action Against Hunger is committed to helping the people of Malawi lift themselves out of crisis in the short term, and empowering them to overcome shocks and reach self sufficiency in the long term. 

 

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Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children. We ensure families can access clean water, food, training, and health care. We enable entire communities to be free from hunger.