Malawi has just survived the most severe food crisis in 35 years. An initiative helped with money for food aid - the goal: to strengthen self-sufficiency. 

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(c) Save the Children

Malawi has just survived its most severe food crisis in 35 years. The main reason for the crisis was the lack of rainfall in the years 2015 and 2016. This led to serious crop failures in Malawi, as well as in other countries in eastern and southern Africa. 6.5 million people were dependent on external aid to meet their nutritional needs.


Strong social security systems are of key importance in times of economic crisis and poor harvests in order to prevent hunger and to ensure survival. People without income or adequate self-sufficiency need such a solid network in order to get through the worst times. Otherwise, they may resort to so-called "negative coping mechanisms", such as selling the few animals they have or to go without food, even children. This was exactly the case in Malawi and has aggravated the crisis.

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The goal: support self-sufficiency and strengthen the community. (c) Save the Children

For this reason, the World Food Programme and an alliance of international NGOs led by Save the Children e.V. took action to strengthen the social security system in Malawi between October 2016 and April 2017. The essence of the program, which was able to reach most of the affected regions and people, is as follows: as long as the market situation is such that food is available from local traders at affordable prices, money is paid to needy families to allow them to shop independently and responsibly. Only in critical market conditions they receive direct food aid. To ensure effective assistance, NGOs operate in areas where they already have local experience. GIZ and other international donors (EU, DFID, Irish Aid and Royal Norwegian) contributed around EUR 30 million in funding.


Who is to receive aid? What are the criteria?  How can it be ensured that no one is mistakenly excluded?


Such a large aid program has to be organized not only for the trained workers, but on the ground as well. Who is to receive aid? What are the criteria? How can it be ensured that no one is mistakenly excluded? All these questions were decided by local selection committees and followed by the responsible NGOs. The program funded by GIZ and implemented by Save the Children in the district of Dedza has helped 60,000 people. Higher monthly payments were approved for families with pregnant women or children under the age of two. With current payments, 86 percent of households surveyed were able to meet their food needs.

Cornerstone for a better harvest

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The project was not focused purely on financial and food aid, but also on preventing malnutrition in children. Children are also regularly screened for malnourishment and given medical treatment if necessary. And because more money also leads to better food supplies, regular cooking and nutritional courses were also conducted, so that malnutrition was successfully reduced.


The project also focuses on achieving a lasting improvement in income. During the crisis, the foundation was laid for the next harvest to be improved. Small farmers in Malawi traditionally focus on the cultivation of corn, which is the basis for the national dish Nsima, but corn is susceptible to crop failure. For this reason, the people in Dedza were trained to set up their fields so that they could absorb more water and use them to grow various crops. After the next harvest, potatoes, sweet potatoes or beans may find their way to the farmers' plates or to local markets.

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Save the Children is the largest independent non-governmental organization that promotes children's rights. In over 120 countries it works to ensure that all children can live safe, free, healthy and self-determined.

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