Malawi has declared a state of disaster over its persistent drought, Agriculture Minister George Chaponda said Wednesday.
About 2.8 million Malawians - nearly 20 per cent of the population – face food insecurity, making the country one of the worst hit in southern and eastern Africa, where drought affects 50 million people, according to UN figures.
Malawi's maize production has dropped by 12 per cent, leaving it short of about 1 million tons of maize needed to feed the population, President Peter Mutharika said in a statement late Tuesday.
"With the increased maize deficit, it is expected that an increased number of people will be food insecure and will require humanitarian relief assistance for the whole 2016-17 consumption year," Mutharika said, declaring a state of disaster.
The president appealed for humanitarian assistance from international donors and the private sector.
Malawi was hit by a drought linked with climate change last year, when flooding also hit its southern region. A new drought caused by the climatic phenomenon El Nino is now ravaging the country.
"What is painful is that the same areas that faced a food crisis last year due to floods are the ones that were hit by dry spells this year,” Chaponda told dpa.
He expressed concern that the number of Malawians facing food shortages could rise from the current 2.8 million to 3 million in 2016.