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Heavy rainfall and extensive flooding in the southern and central regions threaten livelihoods

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Malawi
  • January - June 2015
Heavy rainfall and extensive flooding in the southern and central regions threaten livelihoods

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Humanitarian assistance for households already facing acute food insecurity due to a poor harvest in 2014 started in December and January, improving food access and resulting in Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes in the presence of this assistance. However, heavy rainfall and extensive flooding in parts of central and southern Malawi has displaced approximately 175,000 people and affected an additional 525,000-825,000 people. Currently the displaced populations are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and the remaining affected populations are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    • Extensive flooding has washed away crops, damaged roads, and displaced households in the central and southern regions. During a 4-10 day period in January, these areas received 108-433 mm of rainfall in places that typically receive 53-135 mm of rain during that same period. Some humanitarian organizations are reporting difficulties in delivering and distributing assistance due to the flood waters and the damaged road networks.

    • It is estimated that between 700,000 to over 1 million people have been affected or displaced by the flooding and will require humanitarian assistance between January and June. This assistance may be required throughout the next consumption period for some areas if recovery is not achieved.

    Current Situation
    • The country is in the peak lean season, so most poor households have depleted their food stocks and have to depend on income from labor in order to make market purchases. However, due to the late start of season and dryness, agricultural labor opportunities are below average. Middle and better-off households are still consuming their food stocks from the previous harvest.

    • Most of the country is experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes, and in the presence of assistance, areas with households that experienced a poor harvest in 2014 are Minimally (IPC Phase 1!) food insecure. Within the flood affected areas, displaced populations that may have lost their homes and other assets are in Crisis (Phase 3), while some of the remaining flood affected populations are receiving some assistance but remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!).

    • Over the past 3-4 months maize prices have generally been stable. In comparison to this same period last year, current national prices are about 38 percent lower, but still 30 percent higher than the five-year average.

    • Between November and December, informal maize imports from Mozambique increased by about 56 percent. This is probably the result of increased demand in southern Malawi because during this period households began to rely fully on market purchases for their consumption. During this same period informal maize exports declined significantly due to lower availability of maize supplies in Chitipa district (located in the north).  

    • In January the country experienced rainstorms and flooding that displaced approximately 175,000 people in 15 of the 28 districts within the country. The heavy rainfall destroyed livestock and approximately 35,000 hectares (ha) of agricultural land. It is not known how long it will take the affected households to recover and reestablish their livelihoods. Displaced households are currently receiving temporary assistance but will likely need humanitarian assistance for the remainder of the current consumption period in March, and possibly even beyond if they are unable to regain their livelihoods.


    The Food Security Outlook for January to June 2015 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • National weather forecasts for January to March indicate that the northern region is expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall in the second half of the rainy season, which could result in additional flooding and may damage crops. The local and regional forecasts are also indicating that the central and southern regions are likely to receive normal to above-normal rainfall which might include dry spells that could lead to premature drying of crops and further delays in the harvests.
    Seasonal Progress
    • The start of season in central and southern Malawi was delayed by more than a month. Significant rains started around the last 10 days of December. The delayed start of season led to delayed crop planting, and as a result maize crop stand across the country is quite low. This delayed crop development will likely push back or delay the availability of green food from February to March. This will prolong the lean period and harvests will probably be ready in May or June.
    • In early January, severe rainstorms and flooding has displaced households and villages, and washed away crops and livestock in about 15 districts. In total an estimated 700,000-1,000,000 people have been affected by the flooding. Household assets have been lost, along with the destruction of roads, markets, and schools. These events have also disrupted the current growing season which is expected to lead to low production in the affected areas.
    National food stocks
    • National stocks are about 60,000 MT, which is adequate to meet national food requirement until the next harvest in May/June. The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) managed to purchase enough maize for humanitarian assistance to the 695,000 people (figure revised in November 2014) identified as food insecure in 2014 and the subsidized maize sales. However, the additional food needs for households affected by the flooding is likely to put a strain on the national food stock levels since they are currently at the minimum required level of 60,000 MT.
    • Markets currently have adequate supplies of maize staple. Normally, traders source maize from surplus areas in central Malawi and stock them in district centers and transport the grain to remote markets on weekly basis. With most of the unpaved roads and bridges damaged by the heavy rains there is a huge likelihood that supply routes to remote markets in southern Malawi will be disrupted thereby limiting food supplies in markets and likely pushing prices up for households that are relying on markets for their food purchases. 
    Household-level food stocks
    • Due to above-average production in the 2013/14 season, the majority of poor households ran out of own produced food stocks in December, as opposed to October, which is when they typically deplete these stocks. Between January and the harvest period (May/June) poor households will access food predominantly through market purchases, and their access may be constrained due to higher food prices. The majority of middle and better-off households have enough food stocks for consumption until the harvest in May/June.
    Markets and trade
    • National maize prices are likely going to increase by about 10 percent between January and March and remain stable between April and June. In comparison to prices during the same period last year, projected average prices between January and March are around 30 percent lower, but remain 30 percent above the five-year average prices. Prices between April and June are projected to be approximately the same as last year but about 50 percent above the five-year average.
    • Informal cross border trade maize imports mainly from neighboring Mozambique are expected to remain stable between January and March and could increase by about 40 percent between April and June as traders start to purchase stocks for 2015/2016 consumption season trading. Informal cross border exports, especially into Tanzania, are expected to decrease by about 10 percent between January and March as demand increases in local markets. Exports are expected to increase by about 50 percent between April and June as traders start exporting maize grain from the 2014/15 harvest.
    Humanitarian Assistance
    • Populations identified as food insecure due to poor harvests in 2014 were targeted to receive food rations or cash transfers starting in December and concluding in March. It is projected that this humanitarian assistance would improve Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in these localized areas through March. During this period, Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected in the presence of humanitarian assistance.
    • Malawi’s flood response programming is budgeted to cost approximately $81 million USD, and only 21 percent of these funds have been secured. Displaced and other affected households in the hardest hit districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa and Phalombe are being targeted with humanitarian assistance. However, the current assistance has not rolled out to other affected districts and the assistance program is not yet regularized in terms of standard rations and consistency.  
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From January to June the majority of poor rural households across the country are projected to face Minimal acute food insecurity outcomes (IPC Phase 1) due to access to own produced stocks and the ability to make food purchases in local markets once household stocks are finished. Access to green foods will be later this year, as will the harvests, because of the late start of the rains. Harvests are expected sometime in May/June. Households that were identified as facing food insecurity in 2014 in localized areas will benefit from humanitarian assistance between January and March and were expected to start consuming their green foods in April. However, the late start of season is likely going to extend the lean season by about a month. Households in areas that have been affected by rainstorms and flooding are likely going to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes between January and June.



    To project food security outcomes over a six-month period, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes those assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to develop scenarios estimating food security outcomes. Typically, FEWS NET reports the most likely scenario. Click here for more information.


    Figures Current acute food security outcomes, January 2015.

    Figure 1

    Current acute food security outcomes, January 2015.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for Malawi

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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