A report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET) has established that Tropical Cyclone Freddy has worsened Malawi’s food security situation, leaving the poorest households the most affected.
“The impacts of Tropical Cyclone Freddy are expected to worsen the country’s food security situation until September this year with the poorest households being the most affected in terms of the loss of shelter, food, and income sources,” the report stated.
FEWS-NET conducted a preliminary assessment in March 2023 in the flood-affected areas of Lower Shire and Lake Chilwa in Phalombe livelihood zones. The assessment found that some households had lost all their assets, including dwellings, livestock, farming equipment, and food reserves. Furthermore, standing crops were inundated, resulting in below-average national production, with a likely deficit of 20 percent or more, especially in the southern region.
The report also stated that crop losses are likely to be higher in certain districts, including Chikwawa, Phalombe, Nsanje, Zomba, Machinga, Mulanje, and Mangochi. The impacts of the cyclone are expected to drive higher levels of acute food insecurity than was previously projected in February.
“The floods have disrupted most sources of income, including but not limited to self-employment, petty trade, agricultural and casual labor. This will compromise household access to sufficient food and will likely result in an atypically harsh lean season, as the worst-affected households currently have little to no means of accessing their basic food and non-food needs apart from what may be provided by humanitarian assistance,” the report added.
The FEWS-NET report predicts a rise in maize prices due to disruptions to road networks, supply flows, and market functioning caused by Cyclone Freddy. “Unusually high maize prices and below-average income sources are limiting many poor households’ access to food,” the report stated.
Maize prices in southern Malawi markets have already shown a steep increase, averaging 823 MWK per kilogram, up from 627 MWK per kilogram at the end of February, reflecting an increase of around 30 percent over three weeks. “The current maize prices are 300 percent above last year’s prices and nearly 170 percent above the five-year average,” the report added.
The aftermath of Cyclone Freddy has severely disrupted humanitarian assistance and market access, particularly as heavy rains continued. As a result, the worst-affected households currently have little to no means of accessing their basic food and non-food needs apart from what may be provided by humanitarian assistance.
“FEWS-NET monitored markets in March are showing a steep increase in maize prices compared to previous years. Prices in southern Malawi markets averaged 823 MWK per kilogram, up from 627 MWK per kilogram at the end of February, reflecting an increase of around 30 percent over three weeks. The current maize prices are 300 percent above last year’s prices and nearly 170 percent above the five-year average,” the report added.
The report warns that households in Karonga district in the north are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes because of the impacts of dry spells on crop yields during the growing season.