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Food insecurity increases in Malawi, nearing critical levels

By February 24, 2016
(Malawi map courtesy Wikipedia)

(Map courtesy Wikipedia)

Malawi (MNN) — The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says it is urgently looking for $38 million to buy food for nearly three million people facing starvation in Malawi.

The country is facing its worst food shortage in a decade, largely caused by flooding and drought last year. Planting was delayed in the fall because of the dry period, which pushes the harvest off this spring and hurts employment chances for cheap farm labor.

The El Niño is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific. The impact often results in drought in Central America, southern Africa, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and wetter conditions in the southern Horn of Africa, south Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. What it means is staple food production has suffered, specifically maize, rice, and wheat.

Why focus on Malawi? Malawi never quite recovered from the food crisis ten years ago. This year, crop volume is much reduced. Of the farmers who have a crop, some have taken advantage of the shortage situation by raising prices by as much as 175%. It’s very sad to look “at the queues of people trying to go to the market to access food that, in many ways, isn’t even available,” says Chisomo Idea CEO and president Noel Musicha, painting the grim picture already taking shape.

(Image Noel Musicha, courtesy Chisomo Idea)

(Image Noel Musicha, courtesy Chisomo Idea)

This is the backdrop behind the Chisomo Idea team.  How do you “do ministry” with hunger lurking in the community? Holly Cunningham, COO of Chisomo Idea, says, “We’re doing different types of programming, like spiritual programming, mentoring, teaching, educational programs. Those types of programs are not going to have impact if people are hungry.” More specifically, participation in their programs will decline. When the priority is survival, people can do desperate things.

Because of the communities where they work, the impact will be felt among the most vulnerable: the poor. “Those communities are already areas where prostitution is high, activity in the bars is high, and those at-risk type of activities are already part of that community. Those things will increase when farmers are out of work, when they have to look for other ways to make money.” Musicha agrees. “When you live in the agricultural economy, bad weather inevitably brings a lack of food, it brings extreme hunger. In many ways, we’ve been anticipating, but we couldn’t prepare for how big this crisis has become right now.”

(Photo courtesy Chisomo Idea)

(Photo courtesy Chisomo Idea)

Although Chisomo Idea is not primarily a feeding program, Musicha says, “When people are hungry, then we have to figure out ways in which we work with communities to make sure that food is available to them.” They’re working with community leaders to come up with a solution. Part of how they do that is by encouraging relationship…not just in Malawi.

Sponsorships are the beginning of two people getting to know one another—with one providing a helping hand. Relationship teaches accountability to each other. For the sponsor, it’s a covenant relationship, a promise to pray, give, and share. For the sponsored, it’s a promise to be accountable, to live up to the promise of potential–the thing that binds them together under the Cross of Christ.

It’s learning how to be one body. Musicha challenges you to consider asking the following questions: “’Dear God, how can You use me in this season? How can You use me even in this time of crisis, for me to be a refuge for someone?’” Then, prepare yourself for the answers to come.

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