Parts of Africa declared disaster zones over drought, food crisis
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/14/16, 02:27 pm
Malawi has declared a state of national disaster over increasing food shortages triggered by the persistent El Niño drought. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in Malawi have applauded the declaration as a vital step in addressing the country’s food needs.
“More people will be food insecure and will require humanitarian relief assistance for the whole 2016-17 consumption year,” President Peter Mutharika said Tuesday in a written statement.
Malawi anticipates a drop in the harvest of maize, the country’s staple, by an estimated 12 percent from the previous harvest year. The drought struck Malawi particularly hard because 80 percent of the country’s population relies on agriculture. So far, 23 of Malawi’s 28 districts are suffering from too little rainfall, according to the World Food Program.
In his disaster declaration, Mutharika appealed for 1.2 million tons of maize from international donors to help make up for the country’s 1.072 million metric ton deficit from last year’s harvest.
The drought has affected countries across southern Africa. Earlier this year, Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster, with more than one-quarter of its rural population facing food scarcity. Mozambique also issued a red alert yesterday in its southern and central provinces.
The World Food Program began assisting nearly 3 million people in Malawi in October, providing food and monetary assistance to affected families. By February, the aid group began appealing for $38 million to extend its services in the country. In Ethiopia, the World Food Program called for $500 million to assist more than 10 million people battling with the consequences of the drought. In Mozambique, the UN and other aid groups have spent $15 million since the crisis began, but they need another $200 million to fully meet the growing need, according to the World Food Program.
“The situation is quite dire and we believe the worst is still to come,” David Orr, southern Africa spokesman for the UN World Food Program, told the AFP news agency. “It will take a long time before the situation improves.”
International NGOs in Malawi have lauded the appeal as a vital acknowledgment of the problems the country faces. Oxfam, Save the Children, Concern Worldwide, and Goal Malawi said in ajoint statement yesterday the declaration will enable donors to act quickly, according to Malawi’s The Nation.
“Ordinary Malawians should not have to go to bed hungry,” said John Makina, Oxfam Malawi’s country director. “All of us—government, NGOs, and international donors—need to work together to ensure that everyone has enough access to food for themselves and their families.”
Beyond immediate relief, Malawi needs more long term solutions, as the impacts of El Niño could last until March 2017, added Concern Worldwide country director Caoimhe Debarra.