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Malawi faces severe drought and declares a state of national disaster

The lack of rainfall in Malawi is causing food insecurity. 3 million people depend on humanitarian aids from the United Nations.

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika has declared a state of national disaster on 13 April. The country has been hit by a dreadful drought, which has been affecting Southern Africa for over a year. “According to our estimates, 2016 total maize production will drop by 12% compared to the previous year,” said the head of state. This will inevitably have significant consequences on the population: “With the increased maize deficit, it is expected that an increased number of people will be food-insecure and will require humanitarian relief assistance for the whole 2016-17 consumption year,” added Mutharika.

Drought hit numerous African states

What further worsens the situation is the fact that neighbouring countries – Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – have also been affected by extreme drought. For this reason, South Africa – the area’s largest cereal exporter – has been forced to import 6 million tonnes of maize, as a consequence of the lowest rainfall levels in over a century.

 

Food insecurity is thus threatening a vast region. It’s no coincidence that the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will provide aids to 3 million Malawians located in 23 districts (out of a total of 28), which have been particularly hit by drought. According to a WFP spokesman, drought began after a year of reduced harvests due to floods. The situation is distressing and the worst is yet to come. Restoring normality will take time.

 

Malawi siccità
©Mark Mainz/Getty Images

80% of Malawians live on agriculture

The WFP said in February that Malawi is facing one of the worst food insecurity situations in 10 years. This is added to a particularly difficult economic context: Malawi ranks 173rd (out of 187) in the Human Development Index. Moreover, 80 per cent of its inhabitants live on the cultivation of small lands.

 

Cover photo ©Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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