Famine devastates South-East Africa
In response to this mounting crisis the Salvation Army International Headquarters Emergency Services Section has dispatched Major Cedric Hills, an experienced consultant, to work closely with Salvation Army leaders in Malawi and Zambia, drawing up plans for an urgent famine relief programme. This will be followed by a search for available resources.
Government officials in Malawi warn that a human catastrophe is looming, catching donors unprepared. President Bakili Muluzi has declared a state of national disaster, with his country needing over US$21 million to avert mass starvation. The food shortfall this year is expected to be almost 500,000 tonnes. International aid agencies expect this to be the worst famine to hit the region in 50 years.
Captain Edward Horwood, the Salvation Army Development Officer in Malawi, reports, "Local Salvationists are already responding to this need. Emergency food distribution programmes, supporting 4,000 families (over 20,000 people), provided assistance to families earlier this year as they eagerly waited for their harvests."
But this year's harvest has not brought the solution they so desperately sought. The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that more than three million people will require emergency food aid this year. Families have exhausted their resources coping with last year's poor harvest. Hungry families desperate for food have eaten seeds which should have been used for planting this year's crops. And, with 65 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, Malawians are ill equipped to survive another famine.
Maize prices have soared and are 60 per cent higher than this time last year, prices of livestock have fallen dramatically and cases of malnourishment have increased by 80 per cent in clinics throughout the country. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 45,000 children in Malawi are currently facing severe malnutrition.
The famine, which follows soon after famine in Kenya, along with services being extended to victims of the civil war in the Republic of Congo, have placed great stresses on Salvation Army resources.