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WFP Says Emergency Food AID Needed Now In Malawi

Reports from Malawi say the government and aid agencies are increasing food handouts to try to prevent a food insecurity situation similar to that of Niger. The government has barrowed about 15-thousand tons of maize from the European Union and Britain to try to ease food shortages.

Peter Smeardon is with the World Food Program. From a food warehouse in Blantyre, he spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about the food outlook in Malawi. He says, “The outlook is very bad because basically the maize prices…are spiraling completely out of reach of the poorest people. And in addition, a survey in August revealed that children under five being admitted to nutrition rehabilitation units because they were malnourished went up 29 percent nationwide and 40 percent in central Malawi. So, both those are very worrying indicators. Basically, the harvest this year was the worst since 1994 and people are running out of food early, ahead of the hunger season, which normally lasts from January to March/April when the new harvest comes in. But there are worrying signs that large numbers of people will need food aid. Two point nine million in the seven of the worst affected districts in the south where the World Food program is feeding people and perhaps up to five million nationwide.”

The WFP does not have enough supplies on hand to deal with the emergency. Mr. Smeardon says, “In fact, our biggest donor for the Malawi operation so far is the government of Malawi itself. So, we are urgently appealing for donors to come forward and particularly give cash because gifts in kind of food will take four months to reach Malawi. And therefore if you give in a couple of months, or come up with a pledge in a couple of months, the food will be arriving either in the hunger season itself, or after the hunger season when the damage will already be done. So, therefore, we urgently need cash contributions. The total need is $76 million to feed two point nine million people until April 2006.”