'Malawi must not be next’ warns charity after East Africa appeal

  • Aid agency Tearfund launches hunger campaign as millions face severe food shortages across East Africa
  • Stark warning comes as drought forces families to feed their children leaves to survive

Relief and development agency Tearfund has called on the public to act now to curb Malawi’s hunger crisis and help millions facing similar situations.

The warning comes as East Africa stands on the brink of famine, and one in nine people globally (795 million) are undernourished.

Malawi is suffering a food crisis with 6.5million people struggling to survive - almost 40 per cent of the population.

Tearfund’s Head of East and Southern Africa Donald Mavunduse said: “Malawi has been trapped in a hunger cycle for many years. Every time drought hits people have fewer reserves to deal with it. Humanitarian assistance is crucial to break the cycle of hunger and avert disaster. We must not see the situation in Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia replicated in Malawi. We have to act.”

Malawi faces a projection of poor harvests in the coming years and is in the agonising situation of having rain but only enough to offer short-term respite.

Tearfund is calling on the public to support its lifesaving work as stories emerge of families resorting to eating leaves to survive - a sign of food insecurity that has been reported across East Africa in recent weeks.

One Malawian mother called Sylvia Ngondo, 34, told Tearfund she feeds her children leaves just to stop them from crying, even though she knows they have no nutritional value.

Sylvia, who lives in Chirambi in central Malawi, said: “It is just a matter of surviving.
When there is nothing left I have to give my children leaves to eat. I feel pain because I know that this type of food does not provide the nutrients they need but I’ve got nothing else.

“My children cannot grow healthy eating this single type of food. But we just eat leaves for us to survive for some days. When there is no maize my children are crying throughout the day, looking for food. I have got nothing to give them so I give them the leaves just to ease their hunger because I have got nothing else for them.”

Sylvia has already struggles to feed her four children. She now has just one bag of maize left to last six months when it would usually last six weeks.

The people of Malawi are trapped in a hunger cycle and has suffered two years without rain and repeated drought. Now millions of people across East Africa face a future without enough food.

Tearfund is equipping people to better cope with the effects of climate change in Malawi by helping them to learn new farming techniques, as well as working with local partner organisations on the ground to prevent hunger.

The charity is helping women like Sylvia to learn how to make the most of their land through sustainable farming projects. Tearfund partners help families to use innovative and scientifically-proven farming methods such as keeping a covering over fields to reduce loss of water; and not burning off leftover vegetation so soil is replenished with nutrients and becomes more fertile over time.

Just £10 a month could provide 12 families with the training to provide not only enough food to feed their family but a healthy surplus to build a future on. For more information about how Tearfund is battling hunger in Malawi visit: www.tearfund.org/hungersteals

Tearfund works in more than 50 countries, offering immediate humanitarian assistance, such as food aid, as well as helping countries better prepare for disasters, and become more resilient to the changing climate. Activities include training masons to build earthquake-resistant houses in Nepal, helping people set up small businesses in Ethiopia, and advising on new farming techniques in drought-prone regions.


Notes for editors

  • For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Tearfund’s media team: Rehema Figueiredo on 07962 242421 rehema.figueiredo@tearfund.org or Sarah Greenwood on 07720 288227 sarah.greenwood@tearfund.org
    Out of hours, please contact: 07710 573749
  • Photos attached:
    File RS89439 - Sylvia Ngondo at home in her village Chirambi, central Malawi. She has just six bags of maize left to last six months feeding her and her children. ©Tearfund
    File RS89404 - Sylvia's six-year-old son Kennedy comforting his distressed sister Tabish, 2. ©Tearfund
    File 0160 - Sylvia’s mother Polly prepares leaves for her children to eat because the family has no maize. Please credit Tearfund/Genelle Aldred.
    File RS89122 - Children on the road in the district where Sylvia and her family live. Malawi is caught in a hunger cycle and has suffered two years of drought. ©Tearfund
    File RS89438 - Sylvia Ngondo wants to learn new farming skills so that she can make the most of her land even in a challenging climate. ©Tearfund
    File 0163 - Sylvia prepares leaves for her children. She says she gives her children the leaves to stop them crying, even though she knows they have no nutritional value. ©Tearfund
    File 0174 - Families have been resorting to eating leaves across East Africa to deal with food insecurity. ©Tearfund
  • Tearfund is a relief and development agency and a member of the Disasters’ Emergency Committee www.tearfund.org