BLANTYRE — The UN's World Food Programme said Tuesday it needs $48 million in food aid for about 11 percent of Malawi's population who will face hunger due to bad crops.
"It is estimated that those needing food assistance in the southern African country will rise to 1.6 million people during the peak of the lean season early next year," the WFP said in a joint statement with Britain's Department for International Development (DFID).
Britain is the first donor to bankroll the programme, contributing $4.7 million.
WFP country director Abdoulaye Diop said he hoped "other donors will follow the example" of Britain to chip in their support.
The government of Malawi has pledged 25,000 metric tonnes of maize, Diop said.
"We are conscious that many people are struggling due to the poor harvest and high prices in some parts of the country and are committed to supporting the government's efforts to ensure no one goes hungry," said Sarah Sanyahumbi, head of DFID in Malawi.
The current food shortage in Malawi has been blamed on prolonged dry spells, high food prices and economic difficulties. Half the population of 13 million live below the poverty line and earn less than one dollar a day.
A study conducted by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, grouping several government departments, the United Nations, embassies and humanitarian agencies, showed that 1.6 million will be "food insecure" during the lean season between December and March.
Only 200,000 people required food aid last year.
The committee, which recommended a "swift response" to the problem, reported that 15 districts in the centre and south of the country were affected.
Malawi had avoided famine in recent years since late president Bingu wa Mutharika implemented an expensive subsidy programme giving poor villagers access to fertilisers and inputs.
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