Malawi food crisis

The World Food Program estimates that up to five million of the country’s 12 million people are in need of food aid after the drought drastically cut production of maize, the country’s staple food.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced a five-fold increase in its appeal for aid to Malawi due to an alarming rise in malnutrition.

“Immediate and urgent action is needed to save lives,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Per Engebak said.

“At the moment, mothers in many areas are feeding their children only cassava, which is low in the nutrients children need,” he said.

Mr Engebak said an earlier appeal for US$2.5 million dollars had been revised upward to US$13 million, of which nine million would be spent on nutritional activities, including expanding therapeutic centres, providing micronutrients to 500,000 pregnant and lactating women, and de-worming children.

He said UNICEF planned to work with the World Food Program to substantially boost the number of children benefiting from supplementary feeding from the current 16,000 to an additional 60,000 children.

At the moment more than 1,000 children with severe acute malnutrition were receiving therapeutic feeding. The number of monthly admissions was expected to jump to 3,500 as many of the estimated 46,000 severely malnourished children sought treatment.

He said a further 92,000 moderately malnourished children could become severely malnourished if they do not receive immediate assistance.

The poor yield combined with rising maize prices and the AIDS pandemic have conspired to push Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

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