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Malawi news update

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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malawi declares famine emergency By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre Malawi s President, Bakili Muluzi, has declared a state of national disaster because of
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 27, 2002
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      Malawi declares famine
      emergency

      By Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre

      Malawi's President, Bakili Muluzi, has declared a
      state of national disaster because of
      widespread famine and reports of increasing
      deaths.

      With 70% of the southern African country's
      population reported to be on the verge of
      starvation, the president said traditional
      leaders had told him that food shortages were
      becoming critical, particularly in rural areas.

      Parents are reported to
      be selling their children
      to avoid the
      responsibility of having
      to feed them.

      In a national address
      broadcast on television
      and radio, the president
      also warned that the
      food crisis was likely to
      continue into next year.

      He said the crop harvest would be significantly
      reduced because people had begun eating
      "green maize" - or unripe corn - instead of
      keeping it for planting.

      'One death a day'

      In one desperate case, a mother in central
      Malawi is reported to have offered to sell her
      five children to raise money for food. Her sixth
      child died of malnutrition.

      "The children shall starve to death if I keep
      them," Margaret Phiri, 30, told the state-run
      Malawi news agency. "They stand a better
      chance of surviving with other people."

      In the southern town
      of Balaka, police say
      at least one person is
      starving to death each
      day.

      Reports from rural
      areas say people are
      dying almost daily
      after eating tubers or
      leaves.

      Old people are simply
      starving to death.

      Vice-President Justin Malewezi told visiting
      officials from the International Monetary Fund
      on Wednesday that the government needed an
      estimated $21.6m to avoid disaster, but has
      secured only $1.6m.

      Government blamed

      The United Nations World Food Programme
      says it is targeting 2.4 m hungry people in
      southern Africa - in Zambia and Zimbabwe as
      well as in Malawi.

      Malawi's Government appealed to donor
      countries, private companies and
      non-governmental organisations for urgent
      assistance earlier this month, warning that
      thousands could die if food did not reach them
      in time.

      Food distribution has
      been hindered by
      heavy floods in two
      successive years,
      damaging Beit Bridge
      on the South
      Africa-Zimbabwe
      border and a section
      of railway-line on the
      Nacala Corridor in
      Mozambique.

      The government has
      also been accused of
      mismanaging the
      country's food stocks, having sold a large
      quantity of corn to Kenya last year when there
      was a surplus.

      Several Western governments have cut aid to
      Malawi, accusing the government of corruption
      and overspending.
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