April 5 2006
Food aid in Malawi
05/04/2006 - There were many reasons for Malawi's worst hunger crisis in ten years. Since November 2005, SOS Children's Villages has been supporting around 3,200 households in Malawi by providing them with monthly food parcels. This emergency relief programme will come to an end in April.
Drought and floods and the poor harvests that occur as a result, an extremely high poverty rate and the HIV/AIDS pandemic led to a severe food shortage in Malawi at the end of last year. Estimates show that 4.2 million people, around a third of the total population, are at risk of famine and rely on aid although the worst of the crisis appears to be over.
November to April is traditionally a time when food is sparse, even when harvests have been good. When harvests are poor, food shortages can lead to a life-threatening crisis at this critical period. The situation towards the end of 2005 developed in such a way that in November the SOS Social Centres in the capital Lilongwe and Mzuzu in northern Malawi began to provide support to families in their catchment area by providing them with monthly food parcels.
These emergency relief programmes mainly targeted households that were being looked after by children, grandparents or single parents; families that had been unable to produce a harvest; families that were also looking after orphans and families with chronic or incurable illnesses. Included in this care were also families whose children had just been integrated into the nutrition or rehabilitation programmes for children with disabilities at the SOS Medical Centre in Lilongwe.
Since November 2005, 2,200 households in Lilongwe (a total of 10,950 people) and 1,000 families in Mzuzu (a total of 6,060 people) have been receiving food rations once a month: on average this is 25 kg of corn, 10 kg of dried beans and, if required, salt and oil. These rations are calculated and packaged together in such a way that they can be stored easily, can be kept for a month and ensure a balanced supply of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
So that people did not become dependent on external aid, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture also provided training opportunities in agriculture. Those being benficiaries of the emergency relief programme as well as other people from the village took part in the training days "in the fields", which involved acquiring agricultural skills and learning how to grow crops. This emergency relief programme for a total of 17,000 people, the majority of whom are children, will come to an end in April 2006, because the acute crisis is over.
The SOS Social Centres in Lilongwe and Mzuzu have agreed with other organisations to provide food aid and have been working in close co-operation with the local authorities. Both centres have an excellent relationship with district and town authorities, as well as with the Village Development Committees (VDCs), which know most about the community's circumstances and needs. The SOS Social Centres and the VDCs have also compiled lists of families in need.