One Month Since Malawi’s Disaster Declaration

from World Food Programme
Published on 20 Feb 2015 View Original

One month after historic floods engulfed much of southern Malawi in January 2015, devastating the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, WFP continues to respond to the crisis by providing food assistance to flood-affected people and logistics support to the entire humanitarian community.

What we’ve achieved:

1.- Feeding 288,000 flood-affected people (and counting)
Within 72 hours of the President declaring a state of natural disaster in Malawi, WFP began distributing life-saving food assistance to the flood-affected population. To date, WFP has reached more than 288,000 flood-affected people with food assistance. Given the magnitude of the disaster, WFP also called in air support for the first time in Malawi’s history. WFP airlifted High Energy Biscuits from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai to provide the most vulnerable, particularly children, with ready-to-eat meals. This has been crucial for those who have displaced from their homes and are without access to food or cooking facilities.

2.- Flying over broken roads to deliver humanitarian assistance
The floods have destroyed roads and rendered some areas entirely inaccessible by land. Determined to reach the most food-insecure people, WFP has transported some 200 metric tonnes of food and other vital relief items via helicopter to these areas. As co-leader of the Logistics Cluster—a working group of Government and humanitarian counterparts in the country focused on logistical issues—WFP has been transporting tents, mosquito nets, plastic sheets and other non-food items on behalf of the humanitarian community to the flood-affected population. Some 550 humanitarian personnel have also been transported by WFP air operations to deliver relief assistance and provide life-saving services.

3.- A strong and rapid response with partners
WFP is working with 11 NGO partners (two local and nine international) to respond quickly in the affected districts and scale-up assistance. Being able to immediately mobilize partners means that those in need have been promptly identified, registered and receiving WFP food assistance.

What happens next:

1.- Keep up the momentum
While the intensity of flooding has let up, it continues to rain and the wet season is forecasted to last through March. In some areas where flood waters begin to recede, swaths of land where people once lived emerge with scattered debris of homes, belongings and farmlands that have become beaches of sand. Many people have lost everything and still urgently require food assistance. WFP is participating in a join rapid food security assessment in order to understand latest needs on the ground, whilst continuing to rapidly move food to maintain the food and nutrition security of those in need. The known number of food insecure people will likely increase, especially given the rising threat of a cholera outbreak – twenty cases have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health so far, with one death. As a contingency measure, the UN has already positioned chlorine supplies to treat contaminated water for up to 500 people.

2.- Focusing on the most vulnerable
In a country where 42 percent of young children are chronically undernourished, a disaster of this scale causes tremendous nutritional risks. This is especially the case for women and children. WFP is working with partners to identify and treat cases of acute malnutrition, as well as to provide beneficiaries information on water, hygiene, and sanitation issues so that food assistance is consumed in a safe and sanitary environment. While the general ration now includes Super Cereal, WFP will move towards tailored assistance by providing children under age five fortified blended foods to help prevent micronutrient deficiencies. As WFP acquires more demographic data, it will continue to adapt the response to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

3.- Mapping the route to recovery
The road to recovery will be long and difficult. Collective efforts are needed to restore food security and rebuild the livelihoods of many. WFP is working with the Government and other partners to identify links to other nutrition and social protection programmes and to initiate early recovery activities at the earliest possible stage, building on investments in context analysis and community planning already made in four districts in particular. This is essential to expedite the transition out of an emergency response and start to build communities’ resilience to withstand future natural disasters and economic shocks.