Malawi is a landlocked, low-income country with over 80 percent of the population consisting of smallholder farmers and nearly 70 percent of the population living below the international poverty line according to the World Bank.
The 2017 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee found that as of July 2017, the number people in need of humanitarian assistance was around 1 million, a significant improvement from the 2015-2016 low point of 6.7 million food insecure people as a result of El-Niño. Current agricultural conditions are promising and although Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations of maize crops were reported in all regions, the impact on production was not significant and the household and market supply of food is likely to remain stable.
According to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), the majority of the country will face Minimal (IPC 1)* levels of food insecurity, with the exception of vulnerable households in the Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza and Balaka districts of Southern Malawi, where Stressed (IPC 2) levels are expected through January 2018 and Crisis (IPC 3) levels through March 2018, as the 2017/2018 lean season progresses.
Despite national improvement in the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM), a deterioration of the nutrition situation has been reported in the Karonga-Chitipa zone in the north and the Thyolo-Mulanje zone in the south, showing the difficulty that households face in recovering from prolonged and repeated shocks to food security and nutrition in the country.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, the USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP) enabled the UN World Food Program (WFP) to distribute life-saving food assistance through general food distributions sourced from local and regional markets to over 5.1 million food insecure people. In partnership with FFP, WFP also conducted food-for-asset activities to help over 460,000 smallholder farmers and their communities build resilience and recover from the El Niño-induced drought. In addition, FFP assisted WFP with the procurement, transportation and distribution of maize provided by the Government of Malawi.
Through its partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), FFP is providing longer-term development programming for nearly 248,000 food insecure households to reduce chronic malnutrition and food insecurity and build resilience in Chikwawa, Nsanje, and rural Blantyre — three of the most food-insecure, chronically malnourished and disaster-prone districts of southern Malawi.
Furthermore, the FFP partnership with CRS supports the Feed the Future initiative to help smallholder farmers improve their productivity and income in coordination with the Government of Malawi.
FFP also partners with Project Concern International (PCI) to improve food security among 63,400 vulnerable households in Balaka and Machinga districts through a longer-term development project. PCI’s Njira project focuses on supporting marketoriented agricultural production, improving the health and nutrition of children under 5 years of age and pregnant and lactating women, strengthening community disaster preparedness and increasing the resilience of vulnerable households.
Additionally, FFP is partnering with the UN Development Program (UNDP) to evaluate the effectiveness, appropriateness, impact and sustainability of humanitarian response and resilience building in Malawi.