Food is being provided to orphaned children in 2,190 households, as well as the vulnerable children of 360 chronically-ill people in the southern Malawi district of Chikwawa. Through the relief intervention, the World Food Program (WFP), in cooperation with staff from World Vision Malawai, is targeting the orphaned and vulnerable chidlren (OVCs) as part of the third phase of the Joint Emergency Food Aid Program (JEFAP III).
As Malawi experienced its worst food crisis, the WFP has provided the largest relief interventions over the two proceeding phases. Meanwhile, World Vision reports that its relief team was given the "lion’s share" of the relief rations distributed in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Thyolo and Mwanza districts.
World Vision Malawi's Senior Commodities Officer Jimmy Chifungo said OVCs were also targeted during the first phase of JEFAP, three years ago. He said the current food distributions began in September, and will continue until June next year.
“The idea is that the chronically-ill patients should be having their own food, while the other vulnerable household members, especially children, can eat their own food ration,” Chifungo said.
On September 23, a large number of orphans turned out for the first food distribution in Nchalo, a small sugar-producing town in southern Malawi, along with parents and relatives of the OVCs. They were all happy that the children would be able to go back to school with full stomachs.
"The hunger is just beginning to bite in earnest, and most of the children were absconding classes," said 35-year-old Estele Blande, from Sekeni I Village in Traditional Authority (TA) Lundu. "I could not blame them, because we have run out of food stock. When they heard that we would be having the relief food distribution, they came along to make sure that we take the food back home."
Another of the relief aid recipients, Maria Rice, aged 53, from Katulo I Village in the area said, “It is disheartening to have no food in the house, and the children cry or sulk around. This food distribution has helped me very much, for the young girls can go to school without absconding. Meanwhile, I plan to work hard in the field so that I have a good harvest next year."
World Vision reported that each household with an orphan receives a monthly ration of 50 kg of corn, 5kg of pulses, and 3.7 kg of vegetable oil. Meanwhile, the chronically-ill patients receive 9 kg Likuni Phala, a fortified nutritious maize flour, and a liter of vegetable oil, which they mix and eat as a special diet. The patients' families receive an additional 50 kg of maize, 5 kg of beans and 3.7 kg of vegetable oil to feed themselves.
According to the United Nations World Food Program, almost two million people in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland will need food aid in the first half of 2005.
In 2002, 14 million people across the region faced hunger after poor rains that left crops decimated.
Susan Sikaneta, head of the African Union's Southern Africa Regional Office, said efforts by the AU and its partners have been making progress in increasing agricultural production through irrigation farming, among other measures.
Sikaneta made the statement on Tuesday to delegates who gathered to discuss the food crisis in the 14 member SADC (Southern African Development Community) region. The meeting was a follow up to the 2004 Sirte declaration by African states calling on heads of states and government to ensure food security and eliminate hunger and poverty at both household and national levels by 2015.