Severe food shortage continues in Malawi

News and Press Release
Originally published
Baltimore, March 12, 2002 - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is providing emergency food aid to help stave off the current food crisis in Malawi. The Government of Malawi estimates that approximately 70 percent of the total population has been hit by food shortage, with deaths attributable to starvation already occurring in rural areas. The southern region is most severely affected, with estimates of 80 percent of households without food. CRS is working in cooperation with its local partners and international nongovernmental organizations to provide relief through food supplies like maize flour, vegetable oil and likuni phala, a mineral-fortified mixture of corn and beans.
"The situation is grave; this time of year is typically the leanest for the farmers, as they are in between the planting and harvest seasons," said Makasa Kabongo, Country Representative for CRS/Malawi. "This year, however, is the worst in a decade."

Agriculture in Malawi is rainfall-dependent, and floods in recent years have damaged the soil. This has subsequently led to a decline in production of maize, Malawi's staple crop. In addition, crop diseases have damaged much of what has grown. The lack of quality seed and fertilizer due to endemic poverty in Malawi has served only to compound the current crisis.

In addition to the emergency food aid - which will reach 78,000 households (approximately 390,000 people) - CRS and the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi are instituting a long-term relief plan that will provide seed for the winter growing season. Packets of vegetable seed, such as tomatoes and okra, early maturing maize seed and bean seed will be provided. These supplies will be targeted to the most vulnerable, including the elderly, child-headed households and those households with chronically malnourished children.

Malawi, a small landlocked country of 10 million, is located below the equator in southeast Africa. CRS opened an office in Lilongwe, Malawi's capital city, in 1997.

Catholic Relief Services is the official relief and development agency of the United States Catholic community. Founded in 1943, the agency provides assistance to people in more than 80 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Catholic Relief Services provides assistance on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.

For more information about Catholic Relief Services, visit our website at


Brian Shields
410 625-2220, ext. 3294
Makasa Kabongo