Malawi is one of seven southern African countries on the brink of starvation and in a situation that the UN says needs requires immediate action.
It has been devastated by a combination of a long drought caused by a strong El Niño weather cycle and climate change. Successive maize harvests have failed, leaving communities there and in Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere, desperate for food.
Madagascar is the most critical, said David Phiri, UN food and agriculture coordinator based in Harare, Zimbabawe. “Hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of famine. We may see deaths there from starvation. People appear to have no food or money. The cost of inaction or further delaying our response is too ghastly to contemplate. It needs immediate action,” he warned.
Forty million people in southern Africa and a further 11 million in Ethiopia will need food aid over the next few months, Phiri said. But many may get little or nothing because only 25% of the $2.9bn in aid sought by the seven most affected countries has been pledged. A separate World Food programme appeal for $600m is only half-funded.