In February 2016, WFP continued to target 2.4 million out of the total affected population of 2.86 million people with life-saving food assistance.* With over 32,000 additional people now facing food insecurity as well, the Humanitarian Response Committee has agreed to cover this additional population from March, and meanwhile to continue assistance to all 2.86 million people through April 2016 to account for the El Niño-induced extended lean season. As the harvest nears, WFP is progressively shifting its focus to recovery and investment in the productive period in preparedness for another challenging 2016/17 lean season ahead.
FOOD SECURITY SITUATION UPDATE
El Niño continues to have a devastating impact on harvests and food security throughout Southern Africa, with three countries (Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland) declaring a states of disaster or emergency. The event is now on record as the second strongest signal since 1900.
In February, rainfall in Malawi improved in northern/central districts with moderate to heavy rainfall recorded —though in many areas this erratic rain comes too late for proper crop development. Southern Malawi generally continued to experience low rainfall, with eight southern districts now considered to be at risk for extreme drought. Given the expected low rainfall for the rest of the reason, central and southern Malawi are projected to experience poor and failed crops.
Climate models suggest El Niño will fade by June 2016, but its impact on the population will continue to be felt for up to two years. At the same time, El Niño events have historically always been followed by a strong La Niña. In the Southern Africa region, this means flooding, which is as bad for production as drought, and could affect the region well into 2017.
Malawi still faces the highest inflation rate in the region at 23.5 percent, which continues to have a disproportionate impact on the poor who are struggling to access moneymaking opportunities in the face of low labour demand. The economic context is being further aggravated by the local currency that is on average 170 percent higher than its exchange rate at this same time last year, and by maize prices that have now stabilized at unusually high levels.
Significant multiyear investment in preparedness and coordinated response and resilience-building measures are needed to mitigate what’s now projected to evolve into a record-setting regional food and nutrition security crisis. The MVAC is currently carrying out food security monitoring to assess the impact of the ongoing El Nino and make recommendations by mid-March for possible post-harvest/April responses.