By: Happy Arnold Soko
Following the prolonged drought during the 2015/16 agriculture season, President Peter Mutharika has declared Malawi a State of National Disaster.
According to the statement made available to The Malawi Star, hunger is expected to hit hard in the Southern Region and parts of the Central Region. The Malawi leader said coordinated assistance from the rest of the world is the only thing that will assist in alleviating the disaster currently rocking the country.
While addressing the nation on Tuesday evening, Mutharika said there is an expected 12.4 percent drop in Maize production in 2015/16 harvesting season.
Said Mutharika in a statement, “the second round Agricultural Production Estimates Survey which the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development undertook between mid- February and March this year, estimates maize production for the season at 2, 431, 313 metric tonne, representing 12.4 percent decline in production as compared to the 2014/2015 final round estimate of 2, 776, 277MT.
“The country’s maize requirement for human consumption, seed, stock feed, and industrial use is currently estimated at 3, 205, 135MT. This being the case, it is projected that the country will face a maize deficit of about 1,072,461 MT.”
The statement further revealed that the increased maize deficit will leave more people vulnerable to food shortages and will require humanitarian relief assistance for 2016/17 consumption year.
The statement further states that for the past years, floods have affected 1.1 million people in 15 of the country’s 28 districts, resulting in 106 deaths. Additionally, 172 people were reported missing, more than 230,000 were displaced and severe damage occurred to people’s property and to infrastructure.
Close to 64,000 hectares of crop fields throughout the country were destroyed. The situation heavily contributed to Maize output drops of about 30 percent, rendering 2.8 million of the 17 million people food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance.
He added, “Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development projects a total maize requirement of 1 290, 000 MR to fill the deficit and avert a food crisis in the season.”
“In the circumstances, it is very clear that we have the food shortage in the country which will affect a considerable number of our fellow citizens. Accordingly, and in accordance with powers conferred upon me by Section 32(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act, I declare a State of National disaster effective from today, 12th April 2016. I fully appreciate all the previous assistance Malawi has been receiving when affected by disasters, including support for the on-going humanitarian response programme.”
Meanwhile, the government through Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development is expected to ascertain the actual deficit after the third round production estimates in June 2016. The results will form a basis to compute a comprehensive national food balance sheet.
Current, Mutharika has called on the international community, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to come up with immediate support.