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Government declares state of national disaster due to drought

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • April 2016
Government declares state of national disaster due to drought

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2016
  • Key Messages
    • The 2nd round agricultural production estimates indicate that this will be the second consecutive year of below-average cereal production for Malawi. Estimated rainfed maize production this year is 32 percent below the five-year average. Other cereals, namely rice, sorghum, and millet production are estimated to range from 20 to 40 percent below the five-year average, while legume production is expected to only be 5-10 percent below average. Preliminary national food balance calculations indicate that the country will likely register a cereal requirement gap of around 1 million MT.

    • National average prices for maize increased only slightly between February and March. Maize prices have begun to stabilize due to anticipation of the next harvests as well as availability of some prematurely harvested maize in markets. This average price is still 184 percent higher than five-year average price and about 148 percent above the average prices in March 2015. 

    • Humanitarian assistance to about 2.9 million people across the country will end in late April. Poor households not receiving assistance continue to experience limited food access due to limited income generating activities. This problem is being exacerbated by low market supplies and low stocks of subsidized maize in ADMARC markets.

    • The Malawi government has declared a state of disaster in the face of a second consecutive year of food insecurity. The size of the food insecure population during the 2016/17 consumption year is expected to increase substantially. This declaration will likely assist in the mobilization of resources for emergency recovery programming and humanitarian assistance. 


    Current Situation
    • Harvests are delayed in some parts of the country and household access to green harvests limited due to poor cropping conditions. During the 2015/16 cropping season, Malawi received significantly below normal rainfall. The country also experienced mid-season dry spells ranging from 3 to 7 weeks and an early cessation of rainfall in some areas. On average, the country received rainfall which averaged about 30 to 40 percent of the required 750 to 2500 mm. Some households are likely to harvest nothing due to severe crop failure.
    • The government recently declared a state of national disaster due to the negative impact of the El Niño-induced drought on 2015/16 seasonal production. In this declaration, the President of Malawi stated that most of the same districts affected by floods and dryness in early 2015 are the same areas affected by drought during the 2015/16 season. The strong El Niño resulted in a late onset of the rains in most areas, especially in the southern region, sporadic rains that were interspersed with prolonged dry spells, resulting in the drying, scorching, and permanent wilting of crops. The president has appealed for humanitarian relief assistance from the international donor community, United Nations agencies, the private sector, and Non-Governmental Organizations.
    • The recently released 2nd round agricultural production estimates indicate that this will be the second consecutive year of below-average cereal production for Malawi. Estimated rainfed maize production this year is 32 percent below the five-year average. Other cereals, namely rice, sorghum, and millet production are estimated to range from 20 to 40 percent below the five-year average, while legume production is expected to only be 5-10 percent below average. Irrigated maize production estimates across all three regions vary greatly. In the north irrigated maize production is estimated at about 18 percent below the five-year average, while in the south it is around 25 percent below average. The largest reduction is expected to be in the central region, where irrigated maize levels will be only half of the five-year average.
    • Preliminary national food balance calculations indicate that the country will likely register a cereal requirement gap of around 1 million MT. During the 2015/16 marketing year, after updated harvest assessments and carry-over stock levels, maize shortages totaled approximately 360,000 MT for Malawi. Maize deficits for the 2016/17 marketing year are expected to be larger. Currently there is no information available on government plans to import cereal in the coming months. However, imported food may attract higher import parity costs since most of the southern Africa region is facing large production deficits, including South Africa. Some countries may need to import from outside the region.
    • Humanitarian assistance to about 2.9 million people across the country will end in late April. According to WFP’s March 2016 Situation Report, in March only 80 percent of the planned cash-based transfers to households were provided. Post Distribution Monitoring (PDM) data was collected in December 2015, January 2016, as well as in March 2016. Data collected in March showed that 44 percent of beneficiaries receiving food in the south are sharing their rations. 
    • Poor households not receiving assistance continue to experience limited food access due to limited income generating activities. This problem is being exacerbated by low market supplies and low stocks of subsidized maize in ADMARC markets which were found to be too low to satisfy demand. Households will have difficulty making food purchases and maintaining their basic livelihoods, especially in the southern region, requiring humanitarian assistance.
    • Food prices continue to be high and the national average prices for maize increased only slightly between February and March. This is an improvement from the 22 percent jump in the average maize price experienced between January and February. The national average price for maize is currently at MWK 244/kg. This average price is still 184 percent higher than five year average price and about 148 percent above March 2015 average price. Maize prices have begun to stabilize due to anticipation of the next harvests as well as availability of some prematurely harvested maize in markets. Prices of alternative foods such as legumes and tubers were also high at about 40-50 percent above last year’s prices.
    • With an estimated cereal deficit of around 1 million MT in the 2016/17 consumption season, prices of maize are expected to register small decreases during the harvest and post-harvest period from April to July 2016. Prices may drop modestly between April and May before they start increasing atypically in June. FEWS NET projections based on technical analysis indicate that average national prices for the maize staple may range from MWK 200 to MWK 320/kg in the 2016/17 consumption season (Figure 1). Prices of alternative commodities such as rice, cassava, and beans are expected to follow the same trend since all these commodities are expected to have a production deficit against the national requirement as indicated by Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development.
    • Recently about 12,000 refugees arrived from neighboring Mozambique and are now receiving shelter in Luwani camp in Mwanza district, along with a transit camp in Nsanje district. Conditions in these new camps are crowded and there is limited access to water supplies. The re-opening of Luwani has put pressure on local resources among the surrounding areas in the southern region. Preliminary assessments have reported increased cutting of trees, pressure on water sources and clearing of some cropped land for camp rebuilding before harvests.
    • The biggest camp in Malawi is the Dzaleka refugee camp located in Dowa district, which is hosting about 25,000 refugees mainly from Rwanda and Burundi. Some refugees have been living in this camp for more than 10 years and rely on humanitarian assistance provided by the UNHCR and the Malawi Department of Disaster Management Affairs. The refugees in this camp mostly rely on humanitarian rations provided by the UNHCR and the Malawi Department of Disaster Management Affairs. In April, the UN announced funding shortfalls which would lead to cutting refugee rations in half or just funding humanitarian operations in Dzaleka camp only over the next 4 months.
    • For the first three weeks of April, northern districts received persistent high rainfall, causing heavy flooding and damage to homes and crops. The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services reported that in the first 10 days of April these areas registered rainfall amounts ranging from 245 to 550 mm. Some districts reported some minimal loss of life. Several areas in Karonga and Nkhatabay districts as well as areas within and surrounding Mzuzu City have been affected.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of February to September 2016. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Malawi February 2015 Food Security Outlook


    Projected Outlook through September 2016

    Based on field assessments in March and crop production estimates, FEWS NET estimates that about 500,000-600,000 people in 10 districts in the south and 1 district in the central region will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from May to June, due mainly to drought. Poor households in wider areas of these districts registered complete crop failure with very little prospects for labor, have already depleted their sellable assets, and are neglecting cultivation in own fields to look for food. As of March, poor households were also consuming boiled vegetables with no starch and proteins for lengthy period of time. An additional 940,000 people in these districts will be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes during this period. Between July and September, the food insecurity populations will likely increase to about 1,200,000 in IPC Phase 2 and 1,400,000 in IPC Phase 3. By the peak of the lean season, FEWS NET projects that approximately 1,700,000 people are projected to be in IPC Phase 2 and 3,900,000 in IPC Phase 3 between January and March 2017. 

    Figures Figure 1. Price projections for maize grain.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Price projections for maize grain.

    Source: FEWS NET

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 2

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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