Blog Post

Malawi Continues to Face Potential Food Crisis

Malawi continues to face a looming food crisis, according to the latest alerts from IPC and FEWS Net.  

By September 2024, 4.2 million people, or 20 percent of the analyzed population, is forecast to experience high levels of acute food insecurity, IPC reports. Much of the southern population will be in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) food insecurity, while as many as 56,000 people may reach IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) levels between now and September. Households in this region are still recovering from last year’s El Niño-driven flooding and drought, and food insecurity outcomes have been further exacerbated by reduced incomes and high food prices. IPC points out that much of Malawi’s food-insecure population cannot produce enough food to support their own needs and thus rely on market purchases, making limited incomes and high food prices a significant challenge.

The situation beyond September, from October 2024 through early 2025, could deteriorate even further, both reports emphasize. This period marks the start of the lean season, which FEWS Net reports is forecast to be longer this year due to the impacts of El Niño. As the lean season begins, households will start to exhaust food stocks already severely limited by both extreme weather events and crop pests. Malawi saw declines in production levels for all major crops in the 2023-2024 season, with more than 1 million hectares of crops impacted by drought, around 700,000 hectares facing fall armyworm infestation, and over 11,000 damaged by flooding and hail.

This lowered crop production, coupled with high food prices and below average income-generating opportunities, could result in as many as 5.7 million people into IPC Phase 3 or above food insecurity between October 2024 and March 2025, with more than 400,000 in IPC Phase 4.

FEWS Net highlights that levels of planned and funded humanitarian aid remain uncertain, despite the Malawian government’s appeal for food aid to assist as many as 9 million people impacted by the El Niño-driven drought. Both reports emphasize that immediate humanitarian response is needed for populations facing acute food insecurity, particularly going into the lean season at the end of the calendar year.

Additional policies and interventions to ward off the growing potential food crisis include facilitating the distribution of key agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer, during the winter season. This could be accomplished through Malawi’s Affordable Inputs Program, but policymakers need to ensure both timely supply and reliable distribution of inputs. Stabilizing maize prices through the establishment of sufficient reserve can also help ensure food security by making the staple crop more affordable and available.


Sara Gustafson is a freelance communications consultant.