Malawi's famine crisis

Situation Report
Originally published
"If we do nothing, it's like sentencing them to death" - Stella Kasirye, World Relief, Malawi.
A crisis is unfolding in Malawi, Africa. Poor growing conditions, including devastating floods followed by drought, have decimated the nation's vital crop harvest - and the food banks are empty. Today, Malawi's hungry population faces severe famine.

Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture is predicting a massive shortfall in vital food crops this year. The situation is not expected to improve until next year's harvest - in May 2003 - at the earliest. Faced with this dire situation, Malawi's President has declared a state of emergency. The United Nations' World Food Programme says a large-scale program of food distribution is vital to avert widespread starvation. According to World Relief's Disaster Response Director, Steve Houston, maize imports are failing to reach people in remote rural areas - resulting in widespread hunger and death from starvation.

World Relief's Stella Kasirye in Malawi says the situation in rural areas is growing more desperate each day. "The people are so hungry," she says. "I spoke with someone who hadn't had anything to eat in four days." Kasirye says people have been eating the unripened maize to stay alive. Others are foraging for leaves because they have nothing else to eat. "If we do nothing, it's like sentencing them to death," she says.

As the situation worsens, local Christians are dying. A member of a local Baptist church ventured out to search for food to feed her hungry family and died before she got back home.

Parents anxiously trying to keep their children alive are becoming increasingly desperate. Another mother was beaten to death as she tried to steal food from a neighbor's garden. She was carrying one of her small children when she was attacked.

A few months ago, little children were flocking to the Chisomo Nursery School - but today attendance is down by half. Many children are too weak to go to school. They have no food to eat. Workers at the nursery school - which is supported by World Relief and the Chididi Holy Trinity Church - take turns donating their food rations to the children, including many orphans.

World Relief and Churches Respond

World Relief and church partners are responding with emergency food distributions in two areas where established programs are operational - feeding approximately 36,000 people. Food distributions are being targeted at families with young children, people living with HIV/AIDS, and AIDS orphans. World Relief has long-term aid and development programs in these areas - Rumphi and Mzimba in the north, and Nkhotakota in central Malawi.

World Relief's Child Survival program is saving countless young lives through health, hygiene and nutritional education. World Relief's Mobilizing for Life AIDS ministry is equipping local churches to fight HIV/AIDS through AIDS awareness programs, Bible-based preventive education, pastoral counseling, orphan support and compassionate care. And through World Relief's Community Banking program, many families are setting up small businesses to boost their income so they can provide for essential needs, including health care.

"Our long-term goal is to equip families to provide for themselves, so that in the future families will be better prepared," Kasirye explains.

World Relief is also conducting surveys in these areas to gain detailed, up-to-date information about food stocks, harvest prospects and nutritional levels.

How You Can Partner With Us

Please pray for God's hand of protection on the vulnerable - especially young children, AIDS orphans, the sick and those living with HIV/AIDS;

Please make a financial donation to help World Relief and churches deliver lifesaving aid at this critical time;

Order World Relief's free resources to help your family - and your church - better understand the desperate plight of the world's hungry people.