Blantyre, Malawi — The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says it needs $88 million to address food insecurity for millions of people in Malawi. The agency warns that hundreds of thousands of children in the southern African country are at risk for malnutrition because of the impact of Cyclone Freddy in March.
In the new appeal Friday, UNICEF said Cyclone Freddy displaced 659,000 people in Malawi and has significantly increased many challenges in recent months.
Among the challenges is acute food insecurity, affecting 3.8 million people in 21 districts.
The situation has put an estimated 574,000 children under 5 and 228,000 pregnant and lactating women at risk of malnutrition.
Stanley Mwase, nutrition specialist for UNICEF in Malawi responsible for emergencies, said the loss of food and increasing childhood illnesses are creating a high risk of malnutrition.
“We are already seeing the increased who are undernourished rising in the affected districts,” Mwase said, “so UNICEF would like to mobilize these resources to that we can effectively respond to the impact of [the] cyclone.”
Malawi has seen an increase in malnutrition cases among children over the last five years. UNICEF says in 2023 alone it estimates that over 62,000 children between 6 months and 5 years are at risk of severe acute malnutrition, often called wasting.
“Now with all the problems in terms of childhood diseases including diarrhea, malaria on the increase, and the number of children who are expected to be malnourished will increase,” he said.
UNICEF said the requested $88 million aims to meet priority needs, such as ready-to-use therapeutic food for treating severe acute malnutrition, access to safe drinking water, as well as basic sanitation and hygiene items, plus education, child protection services and cash transfer plan.
Maziko Matemba, community health ambassador in Malawi, said UNICEF’s appeal should be a wakeup call for the Malawi government to implement its strategies against malnutrition.
“The reasons why all those strategies were launched was to make sure that there is sufficient nutrition supply to children but also other citizens,” Matemba said. “It is like a wakeup call. It will as well help the government to plan amidst all what is happening in the country.”
Records show that in the first quarter of this year the Malawi government, with support from UNICEF, screened 140,307 children under the age of 5 for acute malnutrition.
About 500 of them had severe acute malnutrition and were referred to health facilities for further care.