Photo: WFP/Charles Hatch Barnwell


The Situation

On March 14, 2019, Cyclone Idai tore through Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, leaving millions of people without shelter, transportation or food. WFP has been on the ground since day one, delivering food and emergency support. See the full scale of the operation here.

With a majority of livelihoods dependent on agriculture, the population of Malawi—a small landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa—is highly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters such as annual dry spells and flooding.

This year’s El Niño weather phenomenon—one of the strongest on record—has led to a historic drought across Malawi that has pushed millions of families into hunger. As of August 2016, an estimated 6.5 million people require emergency assistance.

Malawi’s food security situation is further aggravated by a high HIV infection rate—11 percent, which is the ninth highest rate in the world. Nutrition insecurity is also high. The stunting rate for children under the age of five stands 42 percent. According to a recent Cost of Hunger in Africa report, 10.3 percent of the country’s GDP—$597 million—is lost each year to child undernutrition and 23 percent of all child mortality cases are associated with undernutrition.

WFP's Work

WFP has been present in Malawi since 1965.

The agency is currently assisting 4.5 million people and plans to increase its assistance to 5.8 million food-insecure people in the coming months as a result of the ongoing drought. This will be WFP Malawi’s largest response ever.

The agency also maintains a development program that includes school meals; nutrition support for vulnerable communities, mothers and children; and capacity-building projects for disaster risk reduction. These are complemented by WFP’s support to agricultural markets and smallholder farmers through the Purchase for Progress program, as well as a pilot project for prevention of stunting.

In response to floods in 2015, WFP built a Special Operation to support the entire humanitarian community in reaching affected populations and delivering assistance to areas otherwise inaccessible. The operation continued until mid-2016 and included the construction of five bridges to open access to markets and social services.

Refugee operations have been active in Malawi since 2002. WFP aims to achieve and maintain food security among refugees and asylum seekers. The project also supports host communities with productive asset creation activities. The refugee population is projected to reach more than 56,700 by the end of 2016 with continued arrivals to Dzaleka camp and from Mozambique to the southwestern part of the country.