Malawi's looming famine - Millions at risk
By Miriam Mannak
While Zimbabwe has fallen victim to a cholera outbreak of note and Mozambicans are fleeing the floods, another crisis looms in Southern Africa. It is an old, forgotten and silent crisis – which affects over twelve million people. The crisis is called famine and food crisis.
For the past years, Southern Africa has been struggling with food shortages and in Malawi they have now reached critical levels after years of droughts and failed crops. On top of that, the country is being ravaged by HIV/AIDS.
It is estimated that ten Malawians die of HIV and AIDS every hour, and of a population of 14 million, one million people were living with HIV in 2007.
The food shortages and the looming famine should not come as a surprise. Almost four years ago, in 2005, the UN described the food shortage in Southern Africa in general and Malawi in particular as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
Aid agencies were calling it a silent and slow disaster. In that year, 12 million people living in Southern Africa required food aid. Five million were said to be living in Malawi.
The crisis seems to have come to a climax now that desperate Malawians are reported to be exchanging their precious bicycles, sugar and a range of plastic goods for maize and other basic foodstuffs such as bread from Mozambique.
In Many African countries, bicycles are very important to household economies. They enable people to work further away form home without having to deal with the costs of for instance fuel.
According to the Malawian government, however, the reports on the food crisis are false. “Reporters are imagining all the food shortage stories they are writing about," government spokeswoman Patricia Kaliati said.