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UK extends aid funding for food and school meals in Malawi

Poor harvests in Malawi have left many rural families low on food stocks and last week the UK government announced a new package of aid to address the crisis.

During a visit to Malawi, the UK’s international development minister, Lynne Featherstone, promised a further 20 million pounds in aid to the country as many smallholder farmers continue to struggle with the unpredictable weather which has left food supplies extremely low, particularly across southern regions. Last year, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that around 1.6 million Malawians were food insecure due to poor harvests and this year maize stocks have dropped to a level of just a quarter of the annual average.

The new UK aid package will go towards funding the work of the WFP and other agencies in providing food and cash transfers to the most vulnerable families. The money will also fund the provision of school meals for around 800,000 children, as well as nutritional support for 18,000 undernourished children and pregnant women.

The president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, acknowledged the “UK government’s responsiveness to our request for support.” In a BBC article, Ms Banda was quoted as saying that the UK funding would help to ensure the protection of “vulnerable Malawians” and would complement her own government’s efforts “to combat hunger and malnutrition in Malawi”.

Earlier this year, Malawi signed up to the G8’s new global food alliance which aims to encourage private investment in the agriculture sector of developing nations. Despite scepticism about the initiative in some quarters, Ms Banda believes that greater involvement of private companies in areas such as seed production and agro-processing facilities will help to improve yields and benefit her country’s smallholder farmers. The Malawian president has also promised to raise the level of national spending on agriculture.

As well as providing extra funding to Malawi, the UK government also announced a further 15 million pounds of aid for Zimbabwe last week. This money will be used by the WFP and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation to provide supplies to over 600,000 Zimbabweans, as well as cattle feed and vaccinations to protect the livestock and livelihoods of over 300,000 small farmers. Speaking about the new aid, the international development minister said that the UK’s support would “save countless lives” at a time when “countries across Southern Africa are facing disaster”.

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