UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Malawi: Drought Need Not Equal Famine

UMCOR is working in partnership with the Malawi United Methodist Church in a project focusing on the Madisi area in Malawi’s central region of Dowa. The partnership is ensuring delivery of dry rations like maize, beans, and salt to families in need. Photo: Hugo NgwiraUMCOR is working in partnership with the Malawi United Methodist Church in a project focusing on the Madisi area in Malawi’s central region of Dowa. The partnership is ensuring delivery of dry rations like maize, beans, and salt to families in need. Photo: Hugo Ngwira


Countering hunger by way of dry rations in times of crop failure and drought in Malawi

By David Tereshchuk*

March 31, 2016—The current El Niño weather pattern impacting southern and eastern Africa has brought serious and widespread drought which, in Malawi, has cut production of maize and other crops.

Malawians have been struggling to cope. Always highly dependent on farming, they have seen their harvests of maize, a critical staple food, dwindle to the point of deficit—the first such deficit in a decade. Malawi is having to import 50,000 tons of maize from neighboring Tanzania.

Families that include pregnant women, children, and people living with HIV/AIDS were among those that received food assistance in Malawi. Photo: Hugo Ngwira
Families that include pregnant women, children, and people living with HIV/AIDS were among those that received food assistance in Malawi. Photo: Hugo Ngwira

The Malawian agricultural crisis has been aggravated by sudden, sharp floods brought on by short, irregular periods of rain, along with the scorching temperatures. The floods have often ruined what few crops manage to get established in the severe conditions.

Many families are already going hungry, and the U.N.’s Vulnerability Assessment Committee for Malawi has estimated that nearly 3 million people will require humanitarian food assistance well into the middle of 2016.

“Drought does not have to lead automatically to famine,” said the Rev. Jack Amick, assistant general secretary for International Disaster Response (IDR) of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Blocking the road from drought to famine

Bags of beans are ready to be rationed and distributed to families in need. Photo: Hugo Ngwira
Bags of beans are ready to be rationed and distributed to families in need. Photo: Hugo Ngwira

To help head off famine, UMCOR is working in partnership with the Malawi United Methodist Church in a project focusing on the Madisi area in Malawi’s central region of Dowa.

The partnership is ensuring delivery of dry rations like maize, beans, and salt to families in need. For families that include pregnant women, children, and people living with HIV/AIDS, a nutritious local food, Likuni Phala, is also included. It is a porridge made from maize and peanut flour and is often mixed thinly enough to be drunk from a mug.

Amick pointed out that countering hunger this way can give affected communities the opportunity to regroup in the face of crop failure. “We can’t totally replace their crops, but we can give them some hope. Jesus reminds us, ‘When you fed the hungry, you fed me,’” he said.

“UMCOR's support for this Malawi program is twofold,” noted Samrawit Assefa Melles, UMCOR IDR executive secretary. “While we are directly and immediately supporting beneficiaries in their local communities, we also are building the capacity of our Malawi partners, so they are better able to implement effective responses to future crises.”

In light of the progress made so far in Madisi, UMCOR is extending its partnership with the Malawi United Methodist Church to cover other affected communities in southern Malawi.

Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance # 982450, will help families like Malawi’s to avoid drought turning into famine.


*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org

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