By: Geoffrey Banda Jnr.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has extended its relief operation in Malawi by an additional month, through April.
WFP announced of the its relief extension after the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) reported that annual harvests will be delayed by El Niño-related drought across southern Africa.
In a press statement, WFP explained that with planting delayed due to a particularly dry October-December period, many farmers who would normally harvest their maize in March will only be able to do so in April.
It also described El Niño as another factor affecting those who normally rely on early harvesting of maize and is reducing employment prospects for farm laborers.
Maize price in Malawi is more than 60 percent above the three-year average for this time of the year – and up to 175 percent higher in some markets in the south – making it increasingly difficult for many people to access food.
According to the statement, faced with increased needs, WFP – which is funded entirely by voluntary contributions – urgently, requires US$38 million to help the most vulnerable during an extended lean season.
“New contributions are urgently needed to ensure people get the assistance they need to make it through this period.
“Given the unusually high food prices in the country, WFP will also further explore regional and international food procurement options,” says WFP Country Representative Coco Ushiyama.
WFP and its partners have provided food and cash assistance since last October to help alleviate the country’s worst food insecurity in a decade, reaching some 2.4 million people with life-saving food and cash assistance in 24 of the country’s 28 districts.