8th April 2016
My visit to Malawi, at the start of 2016, was without doubt the most difficult trip I have ever had. I witnessed first-hand, the country I care so much about, experiencing the worst hunger season in over a decade. This was made more difficult by the lack of international coverage given to the food crisis. While reports within Malawi increased as the situation escalated, I could see little being broadcast to the wider world. Headlines did not cover the devastating situation in the world’s poorest country.
After so many years of meeting the community members whose lives’ have been changed by Temwa’s work, meeting them this time was heartbreaking. Their hope had diminished and was replaced by despair. Many told me that they feared that serious malnutrition and death would be the result of this food crisis, and unfortunately as time has passed this has been the case.
When conducting interviews to gather information about the situation, I met Maria and Tovia. These two, very sweet but shy, young ladies have really stayed with me. As mothers their fears lay with the well-being of their babies. I had to try very hard to stop the tears, as they gently told me that without immediate help, they believe their babies will suffer serious malnutrition or death. I could understand why they worried for their babies. As I travelled the region, I saw countless children with patches of hair missing, a clear indication of malnutrition, and something I haven’t seen, in such great numbers, for many years.
The awareness of the situation is palpable. People discuss openly that malnutrition is already evident and death will be the outcome. As my trip went on, I witnessed the effects of hunger – Temwa activities such as tree planting had less and less attendees, many strong men and women were becoming weak and children looked ill.
We tried so hard to reach out to emergency aid organisations, we wanted to partner with them so they could provide food aid for our community. However, with a smaller population, the north of Malawi does not have as many aid agencies or receive as much support, so we drew a blank. The whole team knew what had to be done, we had to act quickly and launch an emergency appeal.
The appeal was an amazing success. We raised over £10,000, which will support 6,000 of the most vulnerable people in the region. A huge thanks to all who donated, your support will save thousands of peoples’ lives.
We will be launching an emergency response project in April. We would have liked to start earlier, however it is crucial that all of our work is in consultation with the relevant community structures.
This has taken time and many meetings. There has also been a lot of learning to do, this is the first time Temwa has developed an emergency relief project. It has however been explained to our communities that this is a one off, Temwa cannot become an emergency aid organisation. Temwa’s projects are community driven, they are however designed to enable people to become self-sufficient and this has to remain our focus.
Next, we intend to develop a six month disaster reduction project. It is very likely that such food shortages will be a reoccurring problem, for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we are committed to ensuring that households in our region learn the mitigation techniques so vital to prevent this situation from happening again. We will of course keep you updated on what we develop over the coming weeks.
Once again, I would just like to thank all of you who support Temwa, together we can continue to make a difference to the people of Nkhata Bay North.