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In the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely persist in southern Malawi

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • March 2023
In the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely persist in southern Malawi

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Tropical Cyclone Freddy struck Malawi between March 11 and 13, 2023, causing death, injury, displacement, and damage to roads and infrastructure. Humanitarian assistance and market access have been severely disrupted, particularly as heavy rains continued in the aftermath of the cyclone. According to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA), 13 districts in southern Malawi (Balaka, Blantyre, Blantyre City, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Mangochi, Mulanje, Mwanza, Neno, Nsanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Zomba, Zomba City) and one district in central Malawi (Ntcheu) have been severely impacted by the cyclone. Initial reports suggest Nsanje, Chikwawa, Blantyre, Phalombe, Zomba and Mulanje are worst affected interms of the severity of flooding, density of the affected population, and access constraints. Preliminary assessments indicate there have been over 676 deaths, 537 people reported missing, and 659,278 people who have been internally displaced.

    • All wealth groups have experienced some degree of disruption to their livelihoods acorss southern Malawi due to Cyclone Freddy, but the poorest households are the most affected in terms of the loss of shelter and food and income sources. FEWS NET now anticipates Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will persist in severely flood-affected parts of southern Malawi through September, including during the typical harvest period. A preliminary assessment in flood-affected areas of Lower Shire and Lake Chilwa Phalombe livelihood zones by FEWS NET in March 2023 found some households have lost all their assets, including dwellings, livestock, farming equipment, and food reserves; furthermore, standing crops are inundated. The floods have disrupted most sources of income, including but not limited to self-employment, petty trade, and agricultural and casual labor. This will compromise household access to sufficient food and will likely result in an atypically harsh lean season, as the worst-affected households currently have little to no means of accessing their basic food and non-food needs apart from what may be provided by humanitarian assistance.

    • In the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, cumulative rainfall in most of central and southern Malawi is up to 125 percent of average. Preliminary CHIRPS data suggest some areas, such as Chikwawa, Mangochi, and Nsanje districts, received three to five times the normal amount of rain they typically receive during the period of March 10-15, 2023. The heavy rains caused crop damage, waterlogging, and crop nutrient leaching and, even as floodwaters recede, the excess moisture threatens crops that were maturing and need dry conditions for harvesting next month. However, some areas in northern Malawi were not affected by the cyclone and have been dry, receiving below-average rainfall from January to February, especially in Karonga distrct. Overall, national production is expected to be below average, with a likely deficit of 20 percent or more in southern Malawi. Crop losses are likely highest in Chikwawa, Phalombe, Nsanje, Zomba, Machinga, Mulanje, and Mangochi districts.

    • Prices of maize have substantially increased in southern Malawi due to disruptions to road networks, supply flows, and market functioning caused by Cyclone Freddy. FEWS NET monitored markets in March are showing a steep increase in maize prices compared to previous years. Prices in southern Malawi markets averaged 823 MWK per kilogram, up from 627 MWK per kilogram at the end of February, reflecting an increase of around 30 percent over three weeks. The current maize prices are 300 percent above last year’s prices and nearly 170 percent above the five-year average. Unusually high maize prices and below-average income sources are limiting many poor households’ access to food.

    • The impacts of Cyclone Freddy are expected to drive higher levels of acute food insecurity than FEWS NET previously projected in February. The cyclone affected around 20 to 30 percent of the population in southern Malawi, and severely flood-affected districts will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September. In districts where flood-related crop losses are less severe, improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is still expected around June or July due to the availability of the main harvest. Meanwhile, districts in central and northern Malawi are expected to register Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes starting from May, as household food availability and income from crop sales will improve with the harvest. However, households in Karonga district in the north are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes because of the impacts of dry spells on crop yields during the growing season.

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Malawi Key Message Update, March 2023. In the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely persist in southern Malawi, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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