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Humanitarian assistance in phased response is improving acute food insecurity outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • December 2016
Humanitarian assistance in phased response is improving acute food insecurity outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through May 2017
  • Key Messages
    • According to the national response plan, approximately 6.5 million people are to receive some type of assistance in December. Humanitarian response activities continue to face funding shortfalls, resulting in the reduction of rations for non-maize commodities and the cash equivalent for targeted households in December, February, and March, while in January full rations are expected. The reduced rations will still meet more than 50 percent of beneficiary food needs and initial observations indicate that the rations are improving food access at the household level.

    • Between December and January, outcomes are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of humanitarian assistance. These outcomes are expected to continue in February and March, during the peak lean season. Were the humanitarian response not present, areas in central and southern Malawi would experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Between April and May outcomes should improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for most areas as households begin to access their own production.

    • After remaining stable for several months, the average price for maize grain increased by a modest 8 percent. One factor contributing to this price increase is thought to be the ADMARC’s higher selling prices this year. This year ADMARC’s price is more than 200 percent higher than last year’s price, which is prompting traders to increase their prices in local markets.


    Current Situation

    SEASONAL PROGRESS

    • In general, the country has received average to below average rainfall so far this season. According to the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, most districts in the northern region recorded rainfall that was 50 percent below average, while the southern and central regions recorded rainfall that ranged 75 to 125 percent of average levels. The rains have significantly improved pasture availability, water resources, and soil moisture while supporting the growth and development of crops. The start of the main rains has also increased demand for agricultural labor especially for activities like planting and in some areas fertilizer application and weeding. 
    • Planting and cultivation for the 2016/17 production commenced in the southern region and parts of the central region. Since the beginning of the season in late October, about 75-90 percent of the farmers in the southern region have planted their maize crop according to anecdotal reports from the Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs). In the central region, there are reports that between 60-75 percent of farmers have planted their maize, and in the northern region only about 25-30 percent of farmers have planted their maize. 
    • During FEWS NET’s earlier field assessments in September 2016, most households reported that they had depleted their livelihoods and did not keep money for input purchases or reserve any recycled seeds for the next planting season. According to the recent assessment report by FAO Malawi, only about 60 percent of the small holder farmers have access to improved maize seed and the remaining 40 percent are planting low quality recycled maize seed.  

    STAPLE PRICES

    • The national average price for maize registered a modest increase of about 8 percent. Maize prices increased from MWK 219 per kilogram in October to around MWK 236 per kilogram in November. This is in sharp contrast to the stable prices recorded over the previous 3 months. A factor thought to have contributed to this stability early on was the start of humanitarian assistance programming in drought-impacted parts of the south and central regions. A factor contributing to the recent price increase in November is the large price hike of subsidized maize sold by ADMARC. This year ADMARC’s price is more than 200 percent higher than last year’s price, prompting traders to increase their prices in local markets.

    LABOR AVAILABILITY

    • FEWS NET’s assumption about income from labor, as discussed in the October Food Security Outlook remains unchanged.

    MAIZE AVAILABILITY

    • For the past three years Malawi has greatly relied upon imports from Zambia. Government through ADMARC has this year imported 100,000 MT from Zambia which started arriving in the country in November. Additionally, ADMARC announced that it is importing 100,000 MT from Romania and this consignment is expected to start arriving in the country early 2017. Despite these imports there is still a huge gap in terms of cereal availability in the country.
    • Informal cross border maize imports remain significantly below the five-year average levels. For the past three years, Malawi has relied more on Zambia for informal cross border imports. However due to strict border monitoring by the Zambian authorities, there has been significant reduction in these informal imports from Zambia.
    • Local market maize supplies have improved with the start of the rainfall season especially in the southern and central region districts since most private traders and farmers who were still keeping their stock have released their maize on to the market.

    HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

    • According to the national drought response plan, 6.5 million people are expected to receive humanitarian assistance (in kind or cash transfers) in the month of December. However, due to funding constraints targeted populations will likely receive half-rations of non-maize commodities for December, February, and March, while in January full rations are expected.

    NUTRITION

    • A nutrition survey using Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) Methodology was completed in December 2016 and results are expected in the coming months. This was a follow up to a SMART survey that was carried out in May 2016.

    Updated Assumptions

    Recently available information on the national response plan indicates as of December 6.5 million people were receiving humanitarian assistance – the number of beneficiaries is expected to increase through March 2017. In January, full rations are expected. Between February and March, targeted households are expected to receive more than half of their food needs.

    All other assumptions discussed in the October Food Security Outlook are still valid. 


    Projected Outlook through May 2017

    Between December and January, outcomes are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of humanitarian assistance. Between February and March outcomes are expected to continue to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) as assistance continues during the peak of the lean season. Were this humanitarian response not present, food security outcomes would be worse, with areas in central and southern Malawi experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Below average disposable incomes for middle and better-off households will also limit labor opportunities for poor households during this period. Even though food prices are not expected to be as high as previously projected, prices will still be well above average and this will reduce household purchasing power further. Food availability at the household and national level will improve substantially as the harvest begins. Between April and May food security outcomes are expected to improve. Poor households that faced Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in the presence of assistance will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while other households will likely face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

     

    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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