The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has stepped up an emergency response to help an estimated 130,000 people affected by the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy, which dumped six months’ worth of rainfall in six days in southern Malawi.
The cyclone hit the southern African country just as the rainy season was tailing off with several rivers and water bodies already at high levels resulting in severe flooding. This has inundated farmlands and destroyed produce – just as farmers were about to harvest the only crop of the year – compounding an already difficult year in which 3.8 million people need food assistance.
In response, WFP is providing immediate lifesaving food assistance by distributing corn soya blend, a partially pre-cooked fortified food consumed as porridge to displaced people. WFP is also providing trucks to the humanitarian community to transport supplies and boats used by the Government for search and rescue operations. About 500 people have been rescued so far. WFP also plans to deploy a helicopter to support the airlift of urgently needed medical supplies, food, fuel, and other relief items.
“A lot of areas are an inaccessible restricting movement of assessment and humanitarian teams and life-saving supplies,” says Paul Turnbull, WFP’s Country Director in Malawi. “We are ramping up as quickly as we can under the circumstances, but the true extent of the damage will only be revealed once assessments have been concluded. What is clear though is that the country will need significant support.”
The Government of Malawi has declared a state of natural disaster in the 10 most-affected districts. It is preparing a response plan and humanitarian partners are working together to develop a joint appeal for support.
Malawi, where 80 percent of people depend on smallholder agriculture, is at the sharp end of the climate crisis. Cyclone Freddy comes on top of several crises including inflation in food prices (maize prices have tripled in a year) and the worst cholera epidemic in decades. There have been five major extreme weather events – drought and floods – over the last seven years.