96759 - Malawi Disaster Relief

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Project Vision: To see Malawians who have been affected by natural disasters (such as, but not limited to, flood, landslides, drought etc) to experience God’s love for them through receiving rapid relief and assistance for rebuilding. Together with our partner church, SIM aims to provide fast response to those affected so that they can plan to rebuild after suffering substantial loss.

“Who to Help?”

What do you do when there are millions of people lacking food due to flood or drought and you only have 360 sacks of maize to distribute? We were trying to work out the best way of distributing some food to those who were lacking food as a result of severe flooding last year and subsequent drought conditions in many areas of the country.  We were certainly glad to be working with a local committee who really knew the ‘stories on the ground’ of the selected beneficiaries which it was impossible for us to tell how vulnerable they were purely by looking at them! For example, they explained that the husband of this lady had just upped and left her to go and marry a different wife leaving her with all the children and no income. Not surprisingly she was very emotional during the distribution as this maize has really helped her survive at a time when she was very vulnerable and in need of emotional support as well as food.

The man on the right is the Chief at Zombwe who was explaining that for some time they haven’t even been able to buy maize at the nearest big trading centre at Ekwendeni so the committee had to organise how to arrange a special transport of maize out from Mzuzu.  The committee had comprised 4 members including the chief, pastor & 2 community members to ensure as far as possible that the neediest community members were the beneficiaries regardless of tribe, faith or gender. The message had leaked out that there was a food distribution happening and so many more than the 36 pre-identified beneficiaries at Zombwe turned up in the hope of receiving something. In other places the distribution had been arranged in ‘safe places’ knowing that there was a danger that the recipients would have their maize snatched from them en route to their homes if distribution was done in the centre of a market or trading centre.

This man on the left was included as a beneficiary having recently been dismissed from his job for having told the truth regarding corrupt practices in his place of work. Unfortunately, it was a relative of the boss himself who was involved in the corruption which meant paradoxically he himself was the one who ended up being fired.

At least we were able to help 360 very happy recipients who could head home with maize to feed the kids. Whilst one chief told us that many people were now only eating one meal a day it became clear that he was primarily talking about “nsima”, the Malawian stable food made with maize, and perhaps not valuing the other fruits or vegetables that could still be available. It will be increasingly important in the future for food security projects to not only provide emergency food during drought or flood but also to continue to work to change this deeply engrained mindset about food and eating habits in order to help people to value and grow other foods in addition to just maize.

Outlook

Adverse weather patterns such as erratic rainfalls and droughts will continue to affect Malawi. This year, many people suffered crop failures due to an extensive dry spell, while also recovering from the loss of crops from the floods in 2015. Rebuilding communities and improving food security will still be ongoing. Depending on available funding, SIM Malawi will continue to assist communities who are have been adversely affected.

Prayer requests

Pray for the beneficiaries from the 10 villages who received maize that they will know God’s love for them and respond by putting their trust in Him.

Pray for wisdom for the government and NGOs to know the lessons learnt from recent floods and droughts, and to come up with effective strategies to assist communities adversely affected.

Pray for Malawi during this period of food insecurity that people will have enough food to eat until the next harvest.

Pray for sufficient rains to enable a good harvest next year.

Progress

Following the severe floods in January 2015, this project implemented an immediate response to critical need for food, blankets, clothes & farm inputs. A small part of the project funds were kept aside for later use in recognition that food security would become increasingly critical issue until the next harvest was due in approx. March 2016. In early 2016 FEWS (UNAID Famine Early Warning System) indicating crisis conditions in large parts of the country with an estimated 2.5-2.8 million people facing acute food insecurity in 25 of the 28 districts. Therefore, it was agreed to use the remaining monies to distribute maize to selected areas in central & northern Malawi. Sensitization meetings were held in February in 10 village locations (listed below) and committees comprising 4 members of the community were put in place to identify 36 vulnerable households in each of those 10 locations who would each receive a 50kg sack of maize. (Maize to be procured at the local trading centres wherever possible to minimise transportation costs.)

Lilongwe district:              Kabudula, Mtsiliza & Lumbadzi

Lakeshore district:           Lumbadzi, Lingodzi, Nanjoka, Ntchisi

Mzuzu district:                  Chintheche, Luwinga, Zombwe

Whilst we worked with pastors from our partner church to organise the committees & distribution, the beneficiary selection criteria was to select the most needy in the community regardless of tribe or religious affiliation. The composition of the committee was designed to enable the selection to be conducted with integrity and cross checks.

Distribution to the 360 beneficiaries was undertaken successfully in the period 23 February – 5 March, in the most critical time just prior to the expected harvests, despite it being a challenge to source maize in some villages. A SIM representative was present during distribution to assist with making payments and monitor that correct processes were being followed.

Note that, unlike the January 2015 distribution, the local government officials were not included as there is not the same need to co-ordinate with other organisations delivering into emergency temporary camps. Additionally, several of the locations are a significant distance from the nearest district assembly offices and so the cost of paying for a government official to attend (allowance, travel, food etc) would be a significant additional cost for no added value.

Project background

Malawi is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, which is regularly subject to adverse weather conditions. Climate change potentially exacerbates the situation, impacting its ability to grow sufficient food to provide for the entire nation. Since most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, vagairies in weather patterns have a big effect on success or failure of crops. Later rains, heavy rains, short rainy seasons all affect the annual crop yield. Heavy rains regularly decimate crops in local areas, and cyclonic weather drifting in from the Indian ocean may also cause widespread damage. 

This project was established in response to a cyclonic weather event causing severe flooding, which occurred in January 2015. The floods affected 15 out of 28 districts, displacing over 200,000 people, killing about 180 people, and washing away an estimated 700 hectares of farmlands. The President of Malawi declared this ‘a state of emergency’, and an estimated US$80 million would be required for relief and rehabilitation.