Malawi: U.S. Injects MK12 Billion Additional Assistance Towards Malawians Affected By El Niño

The United States government stands steadfast in solidarity with Malawians who were affected by the El Niño-induced drought across the country -- thus, through USAID, it has injected US$7 million (MK12 billion) as additional humanitarian assistance towards the mitigation of the disaster.

This was announced today at the warehouses of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Limbe by USAID-Malawi Mission Director, Pamela Fessenden, saying the assistance will be managed through WFP, UNICEF and other NGO partners to provide urgently needed food & agriculture assistance and to improve access to safe drinking water.

Fessenden said the assistance is in response to President Lazarus Chakwera-led administration's appeal for food and agricultural recovery interventions.

"This additional assistance brings total US humanitarian assistance to Malawi to nearly US$55 million since the beginning of fiscal year 2023 -- including vital resilience and food security programmes," she said.

"This means two million households (about nine million people) -- as announced by the Malawi government, who have lost their crops due to El Niño-induced drought during the 2023-2024 agriculture season -- will receive support.

"As a long time partner of Malawi, it's important to note that the US government, through USAID, was aleready working in many of the communities affected by El Niño, which has helped our partners quickly mobilise additional support."

She added that the funds will help WFP provide "unconditional cash transfers for food assistance to about 300,000 people affected by El Niño and 54,000 refugees and asylum seeker residing at Dzaleka Refugee Camp -- as well as help transport and deliver 10,000 metric tonnes of maize, which Malawi government provided".

"Additionally, UNICEF will assist more that 80,000 children with hygiene kits, safe drinking water and protection services. UNICEF will reach out to approximately 10,000 malnourished children with ready-to-use therapeutical food [Chiponde] -- one of the most affective treatments for wasting."

Fessenden emphasised that USAID is committed to working with its partners at the forefront of providing emergency assistance during disasters, saying through the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the US agency works with Malawi to reach out to people affected by floods storms and droughts.

Before the press briefing, Fessenden toured Chikwawa where through the WFP, USAID has reached out to over 85,000 households (382,000 people) since 2017 through provision of cash transfers.

She applauded WFP's assistance towards building resilience while "working to create productive assets such as protecting and restoring degraded catchment areas, constructing or rehabilitating irrigation schemes, distributing livestock and promoting honey production, among others".

She also said she had a meeting with the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC), which is currently conducting this year's food insecurity assessment to generate numbers of people that will require humanitarian food assistance.

"The work of MVAC is very important in guiding humanitarian response and resilience building projects. This is why USAID also invests in financial and technical support in the process of ensuring that timely and independent information is generated for use by various stakeholders in Malawi.

"Overall, we recognise that the drought affects almost every aspect of life and the US government will continue making investments in water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health, democracy and agriculture that will improve Malawi's long term resilience to these types of shocks," Fessenden said.

On his part, WFP Country Director & Representative, Paul Turnbull said the impact of El Niño on Malawi cannot be over-emphasised in that it "has been severe and far-reaching".

"It has caused a delayed start to the rainy season, prolonged dry spells, and flooding -- leading to substantial agricultural losses," he said. "These adverse conditions follow below-average harvests in both 2023 and 2022 - largely due to cyclones, compounded by poor macroeconomic conditions.

"The agricultural sector, on which over 80% of our population depends, has been hit hard, with many farmers facing total crop loss and whole districts that have lost half of their harvest.

"President Chakwera declared a State of Disaster in 23 out of 28 districts and that early estimates indicate that 44% of the national crop area has been severely impacted [while] 40% of the population are expected to be acutely food insecure this year."

He took cognizance that the US, through USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), "has been a steadfast partner in efforts to mitigate these challenges. The USAID support is crucial for WFP's assistance, aimed at addressing the acute food insecurity faced by millions of Malawians."

He added that USAID's contribution will support WFP activities as highlighted by Fessenden that include supporting the MVAC where WFP provides technical assistance and funds management for food security monitoring and analysis.

"This partnership is vital for providing early warning information and guiding responses," he said, adding that the food assistance to Dzaleka refugee camp was equally important as the refugees and asylum seekers are among the most food-insecure populations in Malawi.

"The support from the United States and other partners is essential for our efforts to mitigate the impacts of El Niño. As we navigate these challenging times, it is imperative that we remain coordinated and responsive," Turnbull said while profoundly thanking USAID that together, they can make "a significant difference in the lives of those affected by this crisis".

Present was Fred Chikuse, deputy director of disaster preparedness in the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), who said as soon as President Chakwera declared a state of disaster following the El Niño-induced drought, DoDMA held an emergency meeting with all its stakeholders where it came up with a report that over US$446 million was needed to mitigate the disaster's impact.

About US$78 million was provided by development partners, leaving out a deficit of US$368 million -- thus he applauded USAID for the additional humanitarian assistance as well as the many areas that the US government has reached out to Malawi.

He added that for the past three years, Malawi has been grappling with disasters, starting with Cyclones Ana and Gombe in 2022 that successively hit Malawi with massive destruction of public infrastructure, households and crops.

"Before we could recover, we experienced Cyclone Freddy, which was more devastating as it claimed lives of thousands of people and then for the 2023-2024, El Niño affected the entire country, mostly the country's food basket of the Central and Southern Region.

"There were some patches of the North that receive normal to above normal rainfall but that too came with disaster through flooding that affected Nkhotakota and Karonga."

He further said going forward, in partnership with development partners, the country has developed a National Resilience Strategy focusing on food and shelter to mitigate future shocks.

USAID is the lead US government agency for international development and disaster assistance, whose projects in Malawi are to advance a more self-reliant country that is gender-equitable as democratically accountable.

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