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Malawi's President Appeals for International Food Aid

FILE - Malawi's President Peter Mutharika meets with reporters at the conclusion of the US-Africa Summit at the Institute of Peace in Washington.

Malawi's President Peter Mutharika has appealed for international help to cope with an expected food shortage that could affect 17 percent of the country’s population during the coming months.

In his national address on the food situation on Monday, Mutharika said people in 25 of the country’s 28 districts are at risk of hunger.

“Total of 2,833,212 people will not be able to meet their annual food requirement. In view of this I would like to appeal to all the development partners, other countries, and non-governmental organizations both in Malawi and elsewhere to complement government sources in assisting the food-insecure households,” said Mutharika.

Mutharika said an updated national food assessment will be released in mid-October by the Malawi - Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC).

“Based on the historical trend, that assessment is likely to show a larger number of people facing hunger than is the case now,” he said.

Mutharika said Malawi needs about $150 million to attend to those in need of food assistance.

The food deficit is a result of low yields of the main staple, maize, largely because of recent flooding which damaged at least 64,000 hectares of crop fields, mostly in southern Malawi.

It is estimated that an additional 120,000 metric tons of maize will be needed to support the affected people.

Mutharika said Malawi currently has purchased 30,000 metric tons from Zambia. The national food reserve agency also said it was purchasing maize from Kenya.

But analyst Rafik Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction told VOA earlier that past experience shows maize imports are not necessarily a means to avert a hunger situation.

“We had a drought situation here in 1999-2000 season. About 42,000 people died not because there was no maize but because the price of maize was inflated by over 100 percent and they could not afford the maize,” said Hajat.

Meanwhile, Malawi's national grain marketer has increased the price of maize in its depots by five percent - a move many feel will affect the buying power of poorer Malawians who need the foodstuff.