Church leaders in the Central African nation of Malawi report the country is on the brink of famine with most of Southern Africa in the grip of drought
Church leaders in the Central African nation of Malawi report the country is on the brink of famine with most of Southern Africa in the grip of drought. The ongoing El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific has delayed the start of the rainy season. Government agencies report that in Free State and North West provinces of South Africa seasonal rains began 50 days late, while the rains have been 30 days late in Southern and Central Malawi. The October to December period of 2015 was the driest on record for most of Southern Africa, and when the rains did begin, they lasted only a few weeks, parching many of the crops in the field. The United Nations estimates that over 900,000 people in Malawi are in need of food assistance, 600,000 in Mozambique, 600,000 in Zimbabwe and 400,000 in Madagascar. While South Africa’s sophisticated agricultural infrastructure is expected to be able to produce adequate supplies of maize by the May harvest, Malawi, Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe are expected to be faced with famine. One source in the Anglican Church told Anglican Ink people have been eating pumpkins in place of the traditional maize crop, and are relying upon assistance from NGOs and the government ADMARC granaries. Many schools have closed, he reported, with the children spending their days in queues outside the ADMARC storehouses to support their families. The Malawi News Agency reported the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi was distributing grain to needy villagers. The Rev. Paul Kamulaza of St Marks Church in Mzuzu said: “Our aim as the church is to help government on this issue [food scarcity] the country is facing. That is why we came up with this program in the church to help families which are less privileged. The program is ongoing and plans are underway to extend it to others who are not members of the Anglican Church in future,” he said. Funds to purchase the grain had been provided by the diocese’s overseas partners, he said, noting he expected the demand for food aid would grow in the coming months.