IMPACT

More Than Half Of Malawi's Population In Need Of Food Aid

The government plans on importing 1 million tons of white maize to fill the food gap.
MTEMA NYEMA, MALAWI - JULY 3: Malawian girls listen to their teacher at a rural school July 3, 2002 in the village of Mtema N
MTEMA NYEMA, MALAWI - JULY 3: Malawian girls listen to their teacher at a rural school July 3, 2002 in the village of Mtema Nyema in the Phalombe District which is east of Blantyre, Malawi. After the droughts and flooding in the last year, half of the students stopped coming to class because of the ongoing food shortage in the region. The World Food Program estimates that 3.2 million people in Malawi alone will be affected before March 2003. (Photo by Ami Vitale/Getty Images)

LILONGWE, May 25 (Reuters) - More than half of Malawi's population is in need of food aid after an El Nino-induced drought decimated crops, the minister of agriculture said on Wednesday.

The drought has ravaged much of southern Africa, but Malawi has been the worst-hit country with half of its population of about 15 million affected.

"The results of this rapid assessment showed that close to 8.4 million people will need food because they have partially or completely lost their crops through El Nino induced dry spells," Godfrey Chaponda told Reuters.

He said that in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the government had conducted a rapid assessment to determine the impact of El Nino on crop production.

"The results further show that the affected population will require about 790,000 metric tons of relief food for a period ranging from April 2016 to March 2017."

Prices for maize, the nation's staple crop, have in recent months gone up more than 60 percent above the 3-year average for this time of the year, making it increasingly difficult for many people to buy food.

BLANTYRE, MALAWI - JULY 4: A Malawian suffering from a severe food shortage carries corn home from a food distribution center
BLANTYRE, MALAWI - JULY 4: A Malawian suffering from a severe food shortage carries corn home from a food distribution center July 4, 2002 near Blantyre, Malawi. In Malawi, and several other affected countries, widespread poverty and the increasing economic and social disruption caused by a devastating HIV/AIDS crisis are additional factors disrupting agriculture and causing a growing food shortage. After the droughts and flooding in the last year, there has been an ongoing food shortage in the region. The World Food Program estimates that 3.2 million people in Malawi alone will be affected before March 2003. (Photo by Ami Vitale/Getty Images)

The minister said that in total, the country is projecting 1.2 million tonnes of maize will be needed to avert the growing hunger situation this season.

The second round of crop estimates, which government undertook between mid-Feb and March this year, estimates that maize production for the current season will be 2.4 million tonnes or a 12.4 percent decline compared to last season.

Chaponda said that in two years, Malawi has registered a cumulative 42 percent decline in maize output.

"To offset the huge maize deficit facing the country this year, government has laid out a plan to import about one million tonnes of white maize to fill the food gap," the minister said.

(Editing by James Macharia)

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