Sunday, February 2, 2014

WFP on course with food distribution programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the British Department for International Development have responded positively to the request made by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) on the need to launch a humanitarian programme to address Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee findings, a development that has them scaling up food distribution efforts.

According to a WFP statement issued this month, the efforts, which were launched in three districts in August, are being scaled up in a phased manner in a drive to reach up to 1.6 million people in 15 affected districts between January and March 2013. It says the operation has reached close to 700,000 beneficiaries in Machinga, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Balaka, Blantyre, Neno, Ntcheu, Phalombe, and Zomba.

Deputy WFP Country Director, Baton Osmani, said recently when the UN agency was distributing relief items to beneficiaries at Mileme Primary School in Phalombe district that WFP has partnered with other organisations to ensure that food items reach out to vulnerable people.

“We are working with partners to distribute food and, at the moment, we are working in about nine districts,” Osmani says.

Head of DFID in Malawi, Sarah Sanyahumbi, one of the officials who witnessed the food distribution efforts in Phalombe, reaffirmed DFID’s commitment towards relief efforts. She said DFID has been working with the Malawi government, US agencies, and WFP to make sure that people are food secure.

“We have provided 10 million (about K5 billion) pounds for this whole programme, meant for the season from September to March, and we are targeting 1.6 million people,” Sanyahumbi said.

These efforts have been buoyed by the government’ own efforts, which include the release of 25,000 metric tonnes of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) for the start of the response.

An official from Adventist Relief Agency (Adra), one of WFP’s partners in Phalombe, said relief workers have intensified their efforts. Adra’s Emergency and Relief Manager, Hastings Lacha, said efforts were being put in place to reach all affected people.

Lacha said, among other areas, the relief efforts are targeting 3018 households in T/A Jenala, 7854 in T/A Chiwalo, 1888 in T/A Nkhulambe, totaling 12,760 households.

DoDMA Principal Secretary and Commissioner, Jeffrey Kanyinji, said the department has been working with Development Committees and local leaders to identify beneficiaries.

Kanyinji said, apart from coordinating relief efforts, the government was putting in lace long-term programmers in a bid to cushion vulnerable communities from food insecurity. He said the resilience plans include the promotion of irrigation farming.

“We are also encouraging people to grow drought-resistant crops such as sorghum,” Kanyinji said.

However, WFP is appealing to donors to bridge the remaining resource gap that currently stands at US$26 million (about K8 billion) to continue providing food assistance to the affected population in Malawi.

The July Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report estimates that 1.6 million people- 1 percent of the rural population- will be food insecure between January and March 2013.

However, preliminary results from the second 2012 MVAC update assessment, which took place between 1 October and 4 October 2012, indicate an increased number of food insecure people in need of assistance.

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