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Food assistance scale-up begins, but Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in southern Malawi

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • November 2022
Food assistance scale-up begins, but Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in southern Malawi

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In November, the Malawi government and humanitarian partners began a humanitarian food assistanceprogram in the form of cash or in-kind transfers for acutely food-insecure households. Rations are expected to cover three to five months of recipients’ kilocalorie needs through March. As a result of this assistance, food security outcomes are expected to improve to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) in many areas. However, food assistance distributions will not begin until January in some districts with acutely food insecure populations, such as Ntcheu, Dedza, and Salima districts in central Malawi. In some southern and central districts that experienced large crop losses and reduced labor income due to tropical storms and dry spells in 2022, the level and timing of food assistance are unlikely to be sufficient relative to the scale of need and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist.

    • In addition to weather shocks, slow economic growth and high inflation continue to negatively affect household income and push up staple food prices, reducing household access to food. Foreign currency shortages, which were mainly caused by the suspension of donor support earlier this year and low income from tobacco sales, have reduced Malawi’s ability to import essential goods such as fuel and fertilizers, which in turn dramatically increased the prices of food and non-food commodities. In October, food inflation hit 34.5 percent, which is the highest level observed since 2013.

    • While economic challenges are expected to persist, the resumption of donor assistance – including a new agreement between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Malawi government on a Rapid Credit Facility of $88.3 million USD to deal with the global food price crisis – is expected to relatively improve the country’s access to foreign exchange and begin to stabilize the economy in 2023. Low cash reserves have left Malawi with 40 percent and 80 percent deficits in its recurrent and development budgets, respectively, contributing to high inflation. The credit facility, along with associated conditions for economic reforms, is anticipated to help Malawi rectify its balance of payments needs.  

    • Malawi has experienced a delayed onset of rains, which will likely delay timely planting and shrink the length of the growing period, for the main crop production season. Very few areas recorded significant rains during the planting period by the end of November. The country normally experiences the start of the seasonal rains from mid-October into November, but the Malawi Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services reported below-average rainfall during the 10-day Weather and Agrometeorological updates for the period from November 21 to 30, 2022. Regional and local weather forecasts continue to predict that the seasonal October-March rains will likely be below-normal in the north and above-average in the south.

    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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