CERF Helps fight Food Insecurity in Malawi

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 Jan 2013

(Johannesburg, 15 January 2013): The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has approved the disbursement of US$3.2 million to fight widespread food insecurity in Malawi – a country where more than half of the population lives on less than $0.32 a day and around 46 per cent of children under age five are stunted.

Due to dry spells during critical stages of crop development, an estimated 1.97 million people – 13 per cent of Malawi’s total population of 15.38 million – are classified as food insecure. This represents a significant increase since June 2012, indicating a quickly worsening situation, with some affected areas having experienced four consecutive poor harvests. The situation is compounded by the devaluation of the local currency and the increasing price of maize, the staple food, which already far exceeds the purchasing power of most rural households. Such conditions lead to reductions in the number of daily meals, increased malnutrition, negative coping strategies such as the sale of household items, and the likely reduction in crop yield next season as people put all their efforts into sourcing scarce food.

In response CERF, which is managed by OCHA, disbursed funds to provide life-saving support to those affected by food insecurity. CERF provided $1.8 million to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to help manage acute malnutrition by, among other activities, procuring therapeutic foods for the treatment of severely malnourished children; as well as to protect the human rights of affected people by providing psycho-social support to affected children, monitoring the adherence to human rights principles during humanitarian response, and strengthening referral services for victims of violence, abuse and exploitation. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) received $1.4 million to deliver agricultural inputs and technical support to the most vulnerable farming families, as well as to encourage the use of good agricultural practices, including conservation agriculture, crop diversification, and small scale irrigation. Such support is especially important as agriculture provides an income to 85 percent of the population, and the overwhelming majority of these people are subsistence farmers.

According to Dr Felicitas Zawaira, UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi (a.i.) and World Health Organization (WHO) Representative, “These funds are critical in supporting the humanitarian community’s response to the food insecurity currently being experienced in Malawi. In particular it will be used to alleviate malnutrition in children, ensure the protection of the most vulnerable, and provide farming inputs to mitigate the risks of a further deterioration in the situation.”

Fortunately, with these funds and other contributions received, nearly all of the resources needed have now been secured and humanitarian assistance is expected to continue as planned through March 2013. This improved assistance is likely to minimize the impact of the situation, which could have resulted in very high acute malnutrition rates and even deaths.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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