Malawi experienced a series of natural disasters from 2015 to 2017, including flooding followed by dry periods and droughts. Across the region, Malawi was one of the worst hit countries by an El Nino weather event. The series of disasters decimated livelihoods, displaced people from their homes and left much of the country food insecure. Malnutrition levels among children were at the highest levels in decades. Some 25 out of 28 districts in Malawi were affected. In October, 2015, 2.8 million individuals were declared food insecure by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC). In April 2016, the President of Malawi declared a state of disaster following crop failures that left some 6.5 million people food insecure and in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
Globally, UNICEF is the Nutrition Cluster Lead Agency (CLA), but in Malawi the Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS leads the nutrition cluster with UNICEF as co-lead. UNICEF has the responsibility of ensuring the participation of key humanitarian partners. UNICEF is also charged with establishing and maintaining humanitarian coordination, lead planning, strategy development, and advocacy and resource mobilization within the nutrition sector. Further, UNICEF is responsible for acting as the provider of last resort – subject to access, security and availability of funding – to meet agreed priority needs. Operationally, UNICEF is responsible for providing technical support and the supply of aid to manage severe acute malnutrition (SAM) among children under five. UNICEF supports communities through outpatient treatment programmes (OTPs), inpatient care nutrition rehabilitation units (NRUs), protection, promotion and support of infant and young feeding practices (IYCF), micro-nutrient supplementation (vitamin A campaigns), and provides therapeutic nutrition products, anthropometric equipment and essential drugs needed for treatment of SAM.