Blantyre — Malawi has started distributing free corn and cash to more than 4 million people facing food shortages largely because of the impact of Cyclone Freddy, which washed away thousands of hectares of crops in March. The move is in response to a recent report that said the situation is expected to worsen until the next harvesting season in March 2024.
According to the report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the number of people projected to face hunger this year in Malawi has increased to 4.4 million from 3.9 million last year.
Charles Kalemba is the commissioner of the Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi. He said the hunger response effort for this year would cost Malawi about $226 million.
“We were able to raise about $78 million that we are going to use as cash transfers and government will provide 165,000 metrics tons to cover the deficit,” he said.
Cyclone Freddy, which also hit Mozambique and Madagascar, killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 650,000 people. The cyclone washed away 179,000 hectares of crop fields in southern Malawi.
Maurine Likoswe is a farmer whose maize field was washed away in Chilobwe Township in Blantyre.
Likoswe said she is excited about the relief program but is hoping the assistance reaches all the beneficiaries.
“We are happy and eager to receive that donation, however we wish to call upon this government to do things differently from the way other governments have been doing. Because, sometimes what happens is the real beneficiaries are sometimes left out and people who do not deserve to receive the items end up receiving,” said Likoswe.
Kalemba said everything is in place to curb any form of corruption.
“We will not tolerate corruption. We will not tolerate theft, and we will not tolerate fraud. Just as we did last year, a number of councilors were arrested, a number of chiefs were arrested, and officers were arrested. We are going to arrest again anyone who tries to misdirect the aid that is going to the people who are vulnerable,” he said.
Kalemba said people in southern Malawi where Cyclone Freddy hit the hardest will receive the relief maize for six months.
People in other districts will receive the maize for a period of between two and five months until the next harvesting season in March.
“Because of the intensity of hunger that we are noting, in different places we may have to push some councils that we were supposed to start in December or January to push them to start in November and see how we move,” he said.
In the meantime, Kalemba has advised people against selling the relief maize, saying those doing so will be arrested.