Looming famine threatens millions in Malawi updated 23 Jul 2002

Situation Report
Originally published
In southern Malawi, the people of Zomba are bracing for famine. Months after the failure of the second crop in two seasons, food shortages are now threatening more than three million people in this southern African country - part of an estimated 13 million people across the region who are now at risk.
And while the numbers involved in this looming crisis are massive, they offer perhaps the best glimpse of how serious this crisis may yet become when viewed in their most basic form. "Last year we got 12 bags of maize from our plot," said one young woman at a Catholic Relief Services food distribution in the district of Zomba. "This year we got six. Others got even less."

In a country where farmers traditionally harvest only one crop each year, the failure of the March harvest this year has condemned millions in Malawi to a season of hunger. Through a combination of both drought and, in some areas, floods, more than one-quarter of Malawi's 11 million residents are now facing critical food shortages. As the local food supplies are exhausted, aid agencies are anticipating that the shortages will begin taking their toll by September - shortages that will only worsen until the next harvest in March 2003.

Feeding Families

To assist in the relief effort, CRS, working with the local Caritas partner agency, began emergency food distributions on July 12th, reaching more than 39,000 people thus far with monthly rations of maize. This effort is scheduled to continue through March 2003, part of a region-wide agency plan to distribute 45,000 metric tons of food aid to more than 400,000 families across southern Africa. As the crisis worsens, CRS is also planning to augment its efforts with supplemental feeding centers and agricultural recovery activities.

And while such efforts are helping, the coming crisis in southern Africa threatens to be even bigger than the response being formed to combat it. Though widespread famine is not yet in evidence, few in Malawi, and elsewhere across the region, doubt that it's far off now.

Copyright=A92002 CRS