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This World Spotlight was created on Oct 12, 2016 @ 03:39:34 pm

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Rights Food relief for 6.5 million people hit by drought in Malawi

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With 6.5 million people in need of humanitarian aid, this year’s El Nino–induced drought constitutes the largest humanitarian emergency that Malawi has ever confronted. It also brings the second consecutive harvest failure to this small, landlocked country, which has yet to recover from last year’s severe flooding. Inadequate governance has amplified the negative impacts of both, compounding natural disasters with political and economic malfeasance. White maize, used to prepare a thick paste called nsima, is the country’s staple cereal. But maize output this year has fallen 42 percent from production levels two years ago and is even 12 percent lower than last year’s failed harvest. The price of maize, creeping upward for months, increased by about 18 percent between May and June, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. It reached nearly three times the five-year average at a time of year that should coincide with the harvest and lower prices. Malawi faces a maize deficit of 790,000 metric tons.

The strategic grain reserve has recently fallen to as low as 6,000 metric tons, according to some estimates; it is nearly empty. Children in Malawi are particularly vulnerable to food shortages, given widespread malnutrition even in times of relative plenty—the most recent Demographic and Health Survey in 2010 found that 47 percent of children under five years of age were stunted. By this past May, rates of global acute malnutrition in Chikwawa and Nsanje Districts, the two hardest hit, had already climbed to 6.6 percent, over double last year’s levels more than six months before the anticipated peak of the crisis. In these districts, over 90 percent of the rural population will require humanitarian assistance for up to nine months. Between this past June and next March, over 400,000 children and pregnant and lactating women are projected to experience moderate or severe acute malnutrition, leading to irreversible physical and cognitive deficits, which will impact their health and economic prospects for decades to come. Centre for Child Development and Research in collaboration with the government of Malawi has launched a humanitarian projects targeting 5000 people in the capital of Lilongwe. The funds requested will be for purchase of stable food maize, handouts for economic resilience and basic household items.

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