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WB grant of $30 million to help feed people

[Malawi] Malawi chankungu counting bags.
More than four million Malawians will need food aid in the coming months (CARE 2002/Tanja Lubbers)

Drought-stricken Malawi, which has suffered its worst harvest in a decade, is to receive a World Bank (WB) grant of US $30 million to support emergency recovery activities in that country.

WB approved the International Development Association (IDA) grant which will go towards the Malawi Emergency Recovery Project on Thursday to support government's efforts to feed its people and resuscitate agriculture production.

At least 4.2 million Malawians, or 34 percent of the population, are at risk of food shortages. Drought and late delivery of fertilisers and seed have caused the latest food crisis in Malawi.

The IDA grant will provide foreign exchange to support critical private sector imports for the restoration of investment and production of the economy, said a WB press release.

"The domestic financial resources generated by the grant will go towards financing the government's budget, including expanded safety nets and public works programmes to help poor people feed their families during the current crop cycle and provide seeds and fertilizer for the coming planting season," said the release.

The resources will also help the Malawian government to reduce domestic debt levels and maintain spending levels in line with the targets of the International Monetary Fund's recently approved Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility programme.

"The government has taken a proactive approach to managing a difficult situation in Malawi," noted Goodall Gondwe, Malawi's Finance Minister, "and the World Bank has been a steadfast partner from the beginning. The $30 million Emergency Recovery Project will provide vital support to government's implementation of its programme to prevent hunger and help ensure a successful harvest in the coming planting season".

Agricultural production has fallen by seven percent compared to last year in Malawi, one of the countries in Southern Africa most affected by drought this year.

"This operation is a key component of the bank's support to Malawi to mitigate the impact of the drought crisis and allow a speedy recovery to a poverty-reducing medium-term growth path", said Timothy Gilbo, WB's country manager for Malawi.

WB said it has been monitoring the situation in Malawi since February 2005 and gearing up additional support since May. A reallocation of $7 million under the ongoing Malawi Social Action Fund also plays a part in the social safety net to protect the most vulnerable households during the food crisis by helping them to purchase inputs for the coming crop season and feed their families during the current cycle.

Even with normal rainfall, Malawi has large pockets of chronic food insecurity, and needs a new approach to address chronic and persistent hunger, said the WB. The bank is supporting the government in designing a comprehensive rural development strategy that would target rural infrastructure, agro-business including private and cooperative farm input suppliers, soil and water conservation, irrigation rehabilitation, agricultural extension and rural financial services.

Earlier this week, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland reiterated an appeal for $88 million in emergency humanitarian assistance consisting of food and nutritional aid over the next six months for Malawi.

"I am very glad to see some of the humanitarian community's most consistent donors have responded to the appeal so promptly," said Egeland, "but there is still a long way to go."

About $13 million in cash and 30,000 mt of food have been pledged by the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Ireland in response to the appeal. But $51 million in food and nutritional assistance, and $37 million in emergency agricultural assistance is needed to help the government ease the chronic food insecurity the nation now faces, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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