We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Malawi, having reflected on the food insecurity situation in our country, have resolved to make few comments, observations and recommendations on this matter of magnitude importance to God’s creatures wellbeing.
It is disheartening and painful to think of our 6.5 million brothers and sisters in Christ, who the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee Report (MVAC, 2016) has indicated as needing humanitarian assistance for them to continue living a dignified life.
The current food insecurity reports, in our country, are in discord to the Gospel teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ: I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The current food insecurity situation potentially reduces our people’s full humanity; food gives life.
We, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, acknowledge the gravity of the food insecurity situation, the current and the impeding hunger in this consumption year (2016/2017). We commend the State President for declaring that with the food insecurity crisis, Malawi is in a state of disaster. To realize that 40% of the population is unable to meet their food entitlements sends shivers to us as Shepherds of God’s folks. The current historic hunger situation threatens the life of many Malawians. Our hospitals are already reporting higher rates of malnutrition cases, with the situation feared to worsen as we approach what we normally call the lean period. The situation requires immediate and long term solutions.
We are informed that the country needs about 307.5 million U$D to support the affected population. The value in this huge figure lies in the fact that it is about life saving. The right to life is not only a constitutional right; it is the very reason we are called human beings. That which threatens human life is an enemy and as a country we recognize this enemy in our national prayer – the national anthem.
We, therefore, wish to join the State President in calling upon national and international stakeholders, institutions, Bodies men and women of good will to come to the fore and help avert the situation. The current food insecurity situation in Malawi requires concerted efforts from multidimensional stakeholders. In this “Year of Mercy” together we can preserve the human dignity of our brothers and sisters in need of food aid. We have learnt with gratitude that some governments, institutions, individuals and agencies have already pledged support for this cause. We sincerely appreciate such gestures and call upon others to do like wise as the situation is really threatening our country.
During such disasters, we have relied on our Caritas Internationalis partners for support and other partners who are supporting our long term development work through CADECOM. We are making the same call for support from all our long term partners bearing in mind that the current food insecurity situation my wash away the gains made over the years.
Humanitarian assistance fits into our calling as the Church; a call for service to humanity, with preferential option for the poor and most marginalized as the guiding principle. We, as God’s stewards in His vineyard, plea with those who have the capacity to come forward in supporting our brothers and sisters in need of food aid.
While we acknowledge the attributed causes of food insecurity in our country, it is high time we started thinking differently as a nation. The current hunger situation is a “paradox in the land of plenty.” As we think of the humanitarian assistance, which is needed immediately, we should also take time to reflect on long term strategies to food security in Malawi. We commend the government’s efforts in developing the country’s National Resilience Plan, which is aimed at breaking the cycle of food insecurity in Malawi. Our plea is that we should not just have mouthful and beautiful policies that translate into nothing. Policies and strategic plans without actions are nothing. We feel, as a nation we need a complete paradigm shift in the way we do things, no more business as usual on food security issues. Food security translates into the very sanctity of life.
As the government finalizes the National Resilience Plan, we would also want to retaliate our earlier observations that the government considers reforming the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) in view of the recurrent food insecurity situation, of which it was partly meant to address. We need sustainable and innovative ways of supporting the rural farmers who are the most affected population to food insecurity despite being producers.
Drawing on lessons from our Development Commission – CADECOM that an integrated approach to humanitarian response, which is people-centered, would be fertile ground for medium and long term recovery strategies. In the response to the current food insecurity situation partners need to undertake context analysis on how the aid can contribute to medium and long term development so that we do not keep our people in a state of destitution. It is also high time we reflected on what are the humanitarian response modalities that are human empowering and dignifying as well as sustainable.
Acknowledging Agriculture as the country’s economic mainstay calls for reforms in the sector: Agriculture infrastructure is in dilapidated, water harvesting mechanism for irrigation is not prioritized, agriculture extension services delivery has gone down. Food security improvement strategies like the Green Belt Initiative still limping yet provides a glaring hope to food security. We call upon the government to be committed to food security in Malawi by enacting the Right to Food Bill.
We, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, recognize the food insecurity challenges at hand. We are in solidarity with the affected population, and keep them in our prayers. We call upon all people of good will to join hands in responding to this food insecurity national disaster while keeping in mind the sustainable and innovative ways of making sure we do not fall back into the same trap year in and out.
Most Reverend Thomas Luke Msusa
CHAIRMAN-EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF MALAWI