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Malawi: Call for 'urgent support' after disaster declared

March 25, 2024

Malawi's President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera declared a state of disaster in 23 of its 28 districts on Saturday, hot on the heels of neighboring Zambia, which has also appealed for aid.

Mud cracks in dried up flood sediment lying on former farmland following the catastrophic 2015 Malawi floods
Malawi is the latest country in the region to have its food supply impacted by a severe dry spell that's been linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon Image: Ashley Cooper/Global Warming Images/picture alliance

The government of Malawi is seeking urgent assistance following Saturday's declaration by the country's president of a state of disaster caused by drought.

The East African country's Department of Disaster Management Affairs called for the international community to channel contributions towards "alleviating the suffering" of all those who were being impacted by an ongoing drought.

State of disaster declared

On Saturday, President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera declared a state of disaster because of the ongoing drought in 23 of its 28 districts

McCarthy also made an appeal for "urgent support" as the country grapples with what government said was "El-Nino induced prolonged dry spells and floods."

El Nino is a natural, cyclical climate pattern that tends to cause hotter weather and reduced precipitation and has heightened the risk of food, water and health security in some parts of the world.

Chakwera said that more than $200 million (roughly €185 million) in humanitarian assistance was needed.

The move comes less than a month after neighboring Zambia appealed for help. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) seasonal monitor, southern Africa is under the influence of El Nino patterns associated with below-average rainfall patterns and below-average harvests.

Severe drought in Zimbabwe threatens millions with hunger

Driest February in four decades

The WFP said in an update from February that the region — which included Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana — was experiencing the driest February in the past forty years and that there were "severe rainfall deficits" in southern Malawi.

Zimbabwe has also seen its crops decimated and may have to follow the same course of action as its northern neighbors.

In January the WFP said that it was already working with the Zimbabwean government and aid agencies to provide food to 2.7 million people living in rural parts of the country.

Aid agency USAID said in its Fiscal assessment of 2023 that the region was facing acute food insecurity, and listed "conflict-induced displacement, and numerous climatic shocks" among the challenges facing countries in the region.

kb/msh (AP, AFP)