Declaration of a State of National Disaster caused by prolonged dry spells during the 2015/2016 season by his Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi
My Fellow Malawians,
As you are aware, the 2015/2016 season has been greatly affected by strong El Nino conditions, resulting in erratic rains across most parts of the country.
Reports from the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services indicate that cumulative rainfall performance from October, 2015 to end March, 2016 has been below average in most parts of the Southern and Central Regions of the country. Average to above average rainfall amounts were only received in the Northern Region of the country.
The season has been characterized by late onset of planting rains, between three (3) to four (4) weeks for the Southern Region and 2 to 3 weeks for the Central Region.
After the late onset of the rains, most areas, especially in the Southern Region, were receiving sporadic rains, interspaced with prolonged dry spells resulting in the drying, scorching and permanent wilting of crops.
These prolonged dry spells have resulted into severe crop failure, particularly in the Southern Region and parts of the Central Region.
The situation is slightly better in the north although some areas there have also been affected by the dry spells.
This resulted in a sharp decline in maize production rendering 2.8 million people in 25 districts food insecure.
While government, with support from development partners and other stakeholders, has been responding to the 2.8 million food insecure people, the country has experienced yet another severe prolonged dry spells during the 2015/2016 growing season due to the strong El Niño.
Most of the affected districts are the same districts that were affected by the 2015 floods later on by the prolonged dry spells.
The second round Agricultural Production Estimates Survey which the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development undertook between mid-February and March this year, estimates maize production for the season at 2,431,313 metric tons (mt), representing 12.4 percent decline in production as compared to the 2014/2015 final round estimate of 2,776,277 mt.
The major contributing factor to the decline is the unfavourable weather conditions for crop development resulting from dry spells the country experienced during the season, particularly in the Southern and Central Regions of the country.
The country’s maize requirement for human consumption, seed, stock feed, and industrial use is currently estimated at 3,205,135mt.
This being the case, it is projected that the country will face a maize deficit of about 1,072,461mt.
My Fellow Malawians, I would like to indicate that the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development will ascertain the actual deficit after the third round production estimates in June, 2016, whose results will form a basis to compute a comprehensive national food balance sheet.
However, basing on the weather pattern and the fact that the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has projected early cessation of the rainfall season, the Ministry is convinced that the projected maize production will not change significantly.
With the increased maize deficit, it is expected that an increased number of people will be food insecure and will require humanitarian relief assistance for the whole 2016/17 consumption year.
The actual number of food insecure people will be determined by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee in due course when the annual vulnerability assessment is undertaken.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has estimated that due to the partial or complete loss of crops through El Nino induced dry spells, the affected population will require about 790,000mt of relief food.
Considering the magnitude of the projected maize production deficit, and the resultant food insecurity that the country will face, there is need to re-stock the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) with about 250,000mt as buffer stock during the season.
On the other hand, the Ministry’s projections show that ADMARC will require a total of 250,000mt of maize to sell to the general public and effectively stabilize maize prices in the 2016/2017 season.
Taking into account the above requirements, that is, re-stocking the SGR, restocking ADMARC, and providing adequate relief food for the season, the Ministry projects a total maize requirement of 1,290,000mt to avert a food crisis in the season.
In the circumstances, it is very clear that we have food shortage in the country which will affect a considerable number of our fellow citizens.
Accordingly, and in accordance with powers conferred upon me by Section 32(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act, I declare a State of National disaster effective from today, 12th April, 2016.
I fully appreciate all the previous assistance Malawi has been receiving when affected by disasters, including support for the on-going humanitarian response programme.
However, I appeal for humanitarian relief assistance from the International donor community, the relevant United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, the private sector as well as all fellow citizens of goodwill, so that, together, we can contribute in alleviating suffering on the part of people who have been affected by the food shortage.
Donations in cash or in-kind should be sent to the Secretary to the Vice President and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Private Bag 336, Lilongwe 3.
Indeed on our part as Government we will make sure that all affected people are taken care of.
Government will cash its drought insurance to start off the relief process.
Secondly, Government will use its remaining part of food items to distribute to the affected people.
I would like to assure all our partners that Government will see to it, that all the relief assistance received is channeled to the affected people in the affected districts.
My fellow Malawians, I thank you for your attention. May the Almighty God Bless you all and our country.
Mia Seppo UN Resident Coordinator UNDP Resident Representative UNDP Malawi
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.