Food security situation report

24 Feb 2016
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We continue to be extremely concerned by the food security situation in Malawi.  Many of our friends and partners across the country have gone weeks without rains at this important time.  We encourage all our members to be alert and responsive to the situation faced by their partners in Malawi.

We are working closely with DFID who are doing all they can to respond to the situation.  We applaud the extra £4.7 million announced by the Secretary of State for Scotland for emergency food security while he was in Malawi earlier this month, which is additional to the £10 million announced by Mr Mundell at our AGM in October.

DFID have kindly provided the below detailed humanitarian update, with full details of DFID's support in this area.  This includes support through SMP-members Mary's Meals. 

Humanitarian Update - 15 February 2016

General points

  • The country is facing the worst food insecurity in over a decade. This is the result of late, erratic and highly localised 2015/16 rains; limited affordability of farm inputs; high prices of basic commodities; limited maize availability on markets and; flooding in early 2015 followed by drought.
  • 2.83 million people (17.3% of total population) were declared at risk of severe food insecurity (up from 640,000 in 2014). The Government of Malawi requested international assistance in October 2015. In February 2016 this has increased by 32,000 and the period of assistance extended to end April 2016.
  • Rains were late in parts of the country by up to 40 days for the current 2015/2016 growing season. Temperatures are higher than normal and soil conditions are dry. Rainfall is highly localised and erratic. Some areas have experienced crop failure, flooding and pest infestations destroying crops.
  • Maize crop condition and expected yields are very variable. The country is at high risk of crop failure and ongoing below average rainfall in Southern and Central regions. It is predicted post March 2016 that Malawi will be in the Stressed (Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) stages of food security (Source: FEWS NET).
  • Maize prices are very high and increasing. Food availability on markets is unpredictable. Other commodities such as rice, sugar, salt and oil prices remain significantly higher than 2015 averages across the country, especially in the southern region.
  • Erratic rain has eroded casual work opportunities at what is normally the peak labour season. Many people are surviving on pumpkin leaves (nkwani) and maize husk ground into flour (madeya). Strong kinship ties means that those who have are sharing any form of assistance and this is helping people to get through a very difficult time. Anecdotal evidence suggests hunger is causing drop outs from school, early marriage and increased transactional sex (Source: Community consultations).
  • Maize should begin to be harvested by end March and this should start to bring the high maize prices down. We should expect an early start to the annual lean season.
  • Refugee outflows from Mozambique into Malawi have significantly increased since 08 January 2016. They are staying at a makeshift camp in Malawi (Kapise) on land provided by a host community that is already severely food insecure. There are 5,656 registered refugees (Source: UNHCR).
  • There are an additional 25,185 long term refugees largely from Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi in Malawi staying at Dzaleka refugee camp (Source: UNHCR).
  • As of 10.02.16 Karonga District in the Northern Region was affected by flash floods. 900 houses were affected with 37 collapsing. 132 hectares of crops are under water and 2 sites inaccessible (Source: UNICEF). UNICEF are supporting the government response.
  • A Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak among herds of beef cattle belonging to small holder cattle farmers in Nsanje District were confirmed on 8th January, 2016. Control and vaccination of 20,000 cattle is underway (Source: FAO).
  • Cholera outbreaks have occurred in some districts of Central, Northern and Southern Malawi. As of 06.02.16 there were 746 cumulative cases in 6 districts with 20 deaths (10 in health facilities/10 in communities). Medecins Sans Frontieres are actively responding in the hardest hit areas in support of the Government’s District Health Centres who are leading the response. UNICEF has funding and supplies for treatment of 1,500 patients. Zomba, Phalombe and Machinga Districts in the Southern Region neighbouring Lake Chirwa are hardest hit from consumption of contaminated water. Person to person transmission still current.



DFID Response

  • The UK was one of the first development partners to respond to Malawi’s international appeal for emergency aid in October 2015. Current support amounts to £14.5m as follows.
  • £10m released in October 2015. £4.7m to support food and nutrition through WFP and UNICEF. £5m cash transfers though a Save the Children led consortium. £300,000 for additional humanitarian support, learning and research.
  • In December 2015 £4.5m released to UN agencies for prevention and mitigation of El Nino impacts. The £14.5m support includes:
  1. Food for over 800,000 people, including pre-positioning of food and nutrition supplies.
  2. A contribution to cash transfers for up to 450,000 people who live near functioning markets but do not have the means to purchase food.
  3. Mass screening of up to 800,000 children to identify urgent nutritional support needs.
  4. Specialist supplies for up to 75,000 children and others suffering from acute malnutrition.
  5. Vital protection support to vulnerable people, including women and girls in displacement and refugee camps.
  6. 3 months support though UNHCR (WFP / UNICEF) for $336,000USD to cover immediate emergency assistance for up to 4,000 Mozambican refugees for 1) provision of food and Non-food supplies 2) Protection Activities 3) Water and Sanitation 4) Registration, Information and Data Management 5) Promotion of peaceful co-existence with the host community.
  7. Livelihood support for some of the most vulnerable households, including vaccinations for over 150,000 animals.


  • Existing agricultural and resilience partners are providing DFID with their own assessments regarding rainfall distribution and the crop situation in their project areas and beyond. Partner proposals for agricultural recovery using existing programme funds are being finalised.
  • DFID is anticipating the scale of need over the next year and beyond is likely to be high. We are planning appropriate responses in the likelihood of a protracted food security crisis throughout 2016 and into 2017.


Other DFID support

  • DFID’s UK Aid Match programme will match donations of £426,202 from the UK public to the WFP ‘tackle hunger’ appeal that ran alongside the Rugby World Cup in 2015. This will be allocated to Malawi to support the emergency response with a total of £852,404.
  • Mary’s Meals a Scottish organisation have been awarded UK match funding and are working on a revised proposal based on a £6.7m project with £1.7m coming from Mary’s Meals and £5m from DFID. A revised proposal will reach in excess of vulnerable children 92,995 in Malawi with school feeding.

Food Security updates are also available from: