BLANTYRE, MALAWI —
The wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday visited several areas in southern Malawi affected by drought, where she announced more U.S. funding to be used to alleviate hunger.
Biden, who was in Malawi as part of a three-country Africa visit, managed to visit only two of the three areas she was scheduled to visit in southern Malawi.
Her visit to the Machinga district was cut short in Zomba City, after Malawi University students, who are protesting a fee hike by the government, blocked the road. This forced the Biden convoy to return to Blantyre.
The Malawi government has since announced the indefinite closure of the university because of the “security threat” the protest is posing to the city.
Earlier, Biden announced the United States had donated $20 million in assistance to support food-insecure communities in Malawi thorough the World Food Program.
“The announcement brings the total United States assistance to over $70 million since the start of the food crisis in October,” she said.
Southern Africa is experiencing a historic drought, and the Malawi government declared the situation a disaster in April.
Dr. Jill Biden interacts with students at Nsama Primary School in Zomba District, Malawi, July 19, 2016. (VOA/L. Masina)
Biden said the United States will continue to support Malawi in all the challenges it is facing.
“The United States is proud to continue assisting Malawi in times of need," she said. "And we encourage others to step up and provide assistance to Malawi and the rest of the region reeling from the impact of this devastating drought.”
WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, who is also visiting Malawi, said the donation will play a big role in the school feeding program.
“Partnering food with education, we are not just feeding stomachs, we are changing minds and providing new opportunity to ensure the positive future that every child deserves, that these children in Malawi will now receive,” she said.
“Last year, we were worrying about 2.5 million people that were affected because of food problems. This year the number is 6.5 million," said Emanuel Fabiano, Malawi's minister of education. "The United States of America has been our partner for a long time. ... At this point we need assistance most, that we are appreciating.”
Biden is expected to meet with Malawi’s first lady, Gertrude Mutharika, on Wednesday in the capital, Lilongwe, before going to her next stop in Niger.