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Not again!

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  • Nordin
    Oh lord, not again! Christine, help me, where do you get these UN IRIN news pieces about Malawi falling to pieces? I need to direct my comments to the source
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 4, 2002
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      Oh lord, not again!  Christine, help me, where do you get these UN IRIN news pieces about Malawi falling to pieces?  I need to direct my comments to the source of this craziness!  Can't they see that their approach to solving the situation is just leading to compounded problems down the road??  PLEASE Ujeni-ers & Nutrition Society Members, help me to tell people about encouraging a diversity of foods - for planting, for eating, and for giving 'assistance' in time of need.  We are causing the price of maize to go up by putting so much demand on it, we are causing food insecurity by relying on one food.  People HAVE eaten - avocadoes, greens, sugar cane, guavas, bananas, pineapples, green vegetables galore and MORE, but they haven't eaten maize, so OF COURSE they will tell you they haven't eaten for days.
       
      The country does NOT need 2.2 mt of maize, it needs about:   1/4 mt maize, 1/4 mt millet, 1/4 mt sorghum, 1/4 mt yams & cassava, 1/4 mt mixed types of potatoes, 1/4 mt fruits, 1/4 mt mixed types of beans, 1/4 mt mixed types of nuts,1/4 mt mixed types of vegetables (fruit, fungus, leaves, roots), Bit of animal foods, Some oil seeds of some sort......This is just a guesstimate off the top of my head, but I think you get the picture - diversity!  Oops, now I think I've gone and overfed the nation.  The problem is NOT a LACK of maize, it is an EXCESS of maize!
       
      Last week I was standing in front of piles and piles of potatoes in Dedza and two old ladies told me they were hungry, I suggested (in chichewa) they eat potatoes.  Ah no madam, nsima.  I explained how to make nsima from potatoes.  Ah no madam chimanga.  Then I went through my whole speel about a variety of foods tying it to God's creations and if we protect and utilize all of God's creations wisely we can have all the foods, medicines and other things we need.  (I am far from a religous church goer, but highly believe in God's creations!)  A small group had gathered as usual and also as usual, 2-3 of the group really got it and they were laughing and chatting with each other about it.  I left them to explain it to those who didn't get it.
       
      My favourite line in UN article is the inclusion of 'Donors cutting back on inputs for seeds and fertilizers' as a part of the assessed 'problem'.  The actual statement should read 'Development causing a dependency on purchased maize seeds and fertilizers and refusing to wean people off of it' as the main problem.  And the last sentence ties right in - yes we should be looking to next year, because it will be worse as the donors are making it worse!  The IMF story which came shortly before this is following the same UN route, they will get a copy of my letters also.  In the article Collins Magalasi, National Coordinator of Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), states 'We are going into that meeting with questions on what role the IMF is supposed to play in times like these and what advice they can offer to sustain our food reserves,' he said.  I'll offer him some advice.
       
      Read it again, it really makes me laugh.  And please Christine, your source for these materials before I drive everyone CRAZY!
       
      Stacia
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, March 04, 2002 5:19 PM
      Subject: [ujeni] news

      Food Crisis Set to Worsen

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
      March 3, 2002
      Posted to the web March 3, 2002
      Malawi is currently facing a critical food shortage, but according to the World Food Programme (WFP), an even worse disaster could be on the way with April's harvest expected to be sharply down.
      President Bakili Muluzi declared a national disaster on Wednesday, and made an urgent appeal for food aid as officials warned that 70 percent of the country's 10 million people were at risk of starvation. He said that food shortages had reached critical proportions, especially in rural areas.
      "The reports are really bad," WFP Country Director Adama Diop-Faye told IRIN. "The only problem is you can't prove people died from hunger but I'm sure the deaths we're recording are hunger-related one way or another."
      She said at some distribution sites, people had not eaten for days and consumed WFP's high-protein corn-soya blend rations as soon as they were handed out. She added that anecdotal evidence suggested there are large numbers of kwashiorkor (extreme malnutrition) cases. Theft of food rations was also a concern for hungry villagers, who have begun to band together for protection at the distribution points.
      The government has said it needs an estimated US $21.6m to avoid disaster, but has secured only US $1.6m.
      WFP has in-country stocks of 798 mt of maize to feed 10,000 targeted households in 10 districts as an immediate response. But Diop-Faye acknowledged that this was only one-third of what was needed.
      In response to the crisis, WFP is now buying 1,500 mt of maize on the local market - at highly inflated prices. An additional eight districts will be covered, and an estimated total of 200,000 people fed.
      "Even with that intervention we are not solving the problem because more people are suffering from food shortages each day," Diop-Faye said.
      Malawi's crisis is a combination of several factors, the WFP Country Director said. Flooding in early 2001 led to food shortages in several parts of the country, especially the densely populated south. Donor cutbacks in support for a farm input assistance programme that provided seeds and fertiliser to vulnerable families, and the government's decision to sell-off some of its national food reserve, also worsened the current situation.
      Prices for the staple maize have rocketed by as much as 400 percent - well beyond the means of most Malawians.
      Meanwhile, although the government has banned the sale of green maize, farmers are harvesting early - both to defeat crop thefts and to make some income. But early harvesting, combined with destructive rains at the beginning of the year in 15 of Malawi's 27 districts, means that another poor agricultural season is in store for Malawi.
      The maize harvest, which begins in April, was expected to come in at 1.9 million mt. But production has now been reassessed to 1.5 million mt. National demand is 2.2 million mt.
      "Donors should look beyond this current crisis as it is going to be worse next year," warned Diop-Faye.
       
       
      IMF Moves in On Food Crisis

      Daily Times (Blantyre)
      February 29, 2002
      Posted to the web February 28, 2002
      Thomas Chafunya
      Lilongwe
      THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has moved in to help government formulate an 'impeccable food security policy' which will be used to avert any future food crisis, senior government officials said yesterday.
      Official sources close to the on-going IMF and government meetings said in Lilongwe yesterday the Fund, whose seven-man, fact-finding mission is still in the country, was discussing the need to formulate the policy control for any future food crises.
      The IMF team, led by Alfred Kammer, Malawi's mission chief, continued their on-going meetings yesterday with parastatal officials from the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and Ministry of Agriculture, the sources indicated.
      The Fund, the sources said, has expressed concern on the prevailing food crisis which has weighed down the country's macro-economic parameters where inflation rate, although declining, was still too far to hit targetted figures as outlined in the 2001/2002 budget.
      'The Fund noted that the issue of food crisis has gone further to hit macroeconomic parameters, such as inflation. The projections which were made in the current budget, mainly those to be attained end of last year, have been affected by the food crisis. That is the reason why the food security policy will be important,' the source said.
      Government figures indicate that at least K1.5 billion is needed to avert starvation.
      Collins Magalasi, National Coordinator of Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), a civil society network on economic issues also scheduled to meet the Fund today, said during the deliberations with the IMF mission the food crisis will automatically top the agenda.
      'We are going into that meeting with questions on what role the IMF is supposed to play in times like these and what advice they can offer to sustain our food reserves,' he said.
      Magalasi also said it was interesting to learn that the Fund and other donors were realising that the often-ignored social aspects of an economy could derail the whole macro-economic set-up and retard economic growth.
      Vice President Justin Malewezi on Monday described the current famine, where 70 percent of Malawi's 10 million are affected, as a crisis and sent save-our-souls messages to the international community.
      On the same day, Finance Minister Friday Jumbe admitted the country is sailing through economic turmoil but said the ongoing meetings with the IMF are expected to change things for the better.

    • Nordin
      Woooeee, I finally have a minute to catch up on e-mails. I haven t had daily computer access and the messages have just flowed in over the past week. Sorry
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 13, 2002
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        Woooeee, I finally have a minute to catch up on e-mails.  I haven't had daily computer access and the messages have just flowed in over the past week.  Sorry for the delay....
         
        Cathy brings up some great hunger / food questions I'd like to address.  And Paul, I will do my best to get the word out to the agencies which you note!  If anyone reads stories that are spreading the word of 'food crisis' in Malawi or this region, please bring it to my attention and I will contact the source.
         
        Yes Cathy, there are some groups doing it the 'right' way, but they are just beginning to be heard and understood locally, the message has started penetrating some of the political level, but not strongly enough.  The political level doesn't 'get it' yet as they are barely impacted by it.  They buy their goods at PTC, and not until those sources are affected will they care too deeply.   It will be a slow change at all levels; improving diets is a really hard behaviour change - just like in the states where we are trying to get people to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups emphasizing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes & nuts.  Who is doing it?  Not enough and we see the results in our disease rates and waist lines!
         
        No, I can't confirm that everyone has access to a variety of other foods, but I can confirm that they could if they were planting and protecting the natural variety of foods in Malawi!   I also know that people are selling piles of all types of foods from all the foods groups (including high energy / protein foods like potatoes, cassava, avocadoes, guavas, bananas, pineapples, beans, etc) so that they can buy up a little bit of maize - and the trade off of what they are selling and buying is a major loss in nutrient & energy levels.  People would be much better off nutritionally if they just ate the food they had instead of selling it to buy tiny bits of maize, but there is an addiction and a lack of knowledge about other foods.  Another example is the selling off animals.  People are selling whole goats for 150 mk or less (usual price 800-100 mk) and chickens at 30 mk or less (usual price 100-150 mk) so that they can afford maize.  A hundred fifty mk of maize will feed  about 15 people nutritionally speaking, whereas a goat would feed 30-ish, if not more.
         
        We've been advocating locally to try to influence 'aid' groups to supply the high nutrient foods that are available in Malawi, along with education about the importance of eating a variety of foods.  I can't report that I know of anyone doing this, although there has been talk of it.  In my community, if I find a family who is really in need, I provide a variety of foods & education, but never maize nor money.  And I know that there are PCVs, nutritionists, people in the Permaculture Network in Malawi, and some random others who are doing similarly.
         
        Yes, there is starvation and probably always has been cycles of it with fluctuating food supplies.  This year is worse for Malawi because the dependency on maize failed as the crops and a few other political factors cut into maize stocks.  Cholera is worse every year as the environment continues to deteriorate (much of it related to land clearing to plant maize!), and immune systems are worse off every year with HIV and lack of variety in the diet.   The situation doesn't have to be as bad as it is this year if people would turn to a variety of different foods and, if food aid was required, that a variety of different foods was in the assistance package.  The same goes for next year - they are already calling for a worse maize year next year - hopefuly many people learned from this year though and have a variety of foods planted (yes, my hopes are high!)
         
        There is education and work to be done at all levels.  Better than sending over money, join up with the Crisis Corps and return to Malawi to work on advocating for these issues!
         
        Hope this addresses your questions - Stacia
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Weber
        Sent: Thursday, March 07, 2002 6:32 PM
        Subject: Fw: [ujeni] Not again!

        OK Stacia...
         
        I'm trying to spread the word but.....are there any NGO's who are doing it the right way?  It really sounds as if there is a legitimate hunger problem right now, but I know you are there and see what's really happening.  Do people have enough avocado, greens, sugar cane, etc. now to have adequate nutrition and not be starving in spite of the fact they don't feel that lump of nsima filling their tummies?  If there really is some starvation from lack of enough food is any aid group supplying the right kind of nutrition now?  
         
        If there is even close to the problem that keeps getting reported I feel compelled to give some money but don't want it to go to only maize relief.  I do know from having worked in the kids ward at QECH that there is always some starvation.  Is it a matter of it just being more noticed and publicized this year instead of it being as much worse as it sounds?   Hey, thanks in advance for any answers and hope you can keep your sanity through it all!        Cathy
         
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        Oh lord, not again!  Christine, help me, where do you get these UN IRIN news pieces about Malawi falling to pieces?  I need to direct my comments to the source of this craziness!  Can't they see that their approach to solving the situation is just leading to compounded problems down the road??  PLEASE Ujeni-ers & Nutrition Society Members, help me to tell people about encouraging a diversity of foods - for planting, for eating, and for giving 'assistance' in time of need.  We are causing the price of maize to go up by putting so much demand on it, we are causing food insecurity by relying on one food.  People HAVE eaten - avocadoes, greens, sugar cane, guavas, bananas, pineapples, green vegetables galore and MORE, but they haven't eaten maize, so OF COURSE they will tell you they haven't eaten for days.
         
        The country does NOT need 2.2 mt of maize, it needs about:   1/4 mt maize, 1/4 mt millet, 1/4 mt sorghum, 1/4 mt yams & cassava, 1/4 mt mixed types of potatoes, 1/4 mt fruits, 1/4 mt mixed types of beans, 1/4 mt mixed types of nuts,1/4 mt mixed types of vegetables (fruit, fungus, leaves, roots), Bit of animal foods, Some oil seeds of some sort......This is just a guesstimate off the top of my head, but I think you get the picture - diversity!  Oops, now I think I've gone and overfed the nation.  The problem is NOT a LACK of maize, it is an EXCESS of maize!
         

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