The Future is Equal

100 days since Cyclone Freddy, farmers in Malawi and Mozambique have nothing to grow ahead of the winter

Families forced to sell their land or take children out of school to survive.

100 days after Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique, many families have had to sell their farmland or withdraw their children from school in order to use the money to buy food.

Cyclone Freddy – one of the deadliest storms to hit the continent in the last two decades – killed over one thousand people, forced dozens of thousands out of their homes, decimated over one million acres of crop land, ripped apart over 5000 kilometres of roads, powerlines, telecommunications, and public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals were levelled to the ground. In some places, such as in Chiradzulu District in Malawi, a whole village was swept away.

“Torrential floods washed away everything, leaving farmers nothing to harvest. Families told us they have nothing to grow ahead of the winter as they lost their seeds, harvest and agricultural tools forcing them to make desperate decisions to survive,” said Amjad Ali, Oxfam in Southern Africa Programme Director.

“This has hugely contributed to food insecurity in the affected areas and the situation will only get worse if people are not assisted to grow food this winter”.

Production of staple food in Malawi such as maize has plummeted by nearly 30 percent forcing prices to surge. Food Inflation in Malawi has increased by 37.9 % and a 50-kilogram bag of maize costs approximately US$22, a price that is out of reach for most Malawians living on less than US$1 a day. Prices are likely to further rise before the next harvest which is ten months away from now.

Michenga Pensulo, 56, a farmer in Phalombe District in Southern Region of Malawi, said: “I have sold my two acres [piece of land] for MK150 thousand (approx. US$100) because I need to buy food and other household needs. It was a painful decision because I sold it cheaply, but I can’t stand to see my family starve.”

“In situations like these, evidence has shown that women, girls and children suffer the most,” Said Lingalireni Mihowa, Oxfam in Southern Africa Gender Justice Lead. “They often face extraordinary difficulties to secure food, and yet, too often they eat the least and last, and girls are most vulnerable, some may have to drop out school so that savings from school fees can support purchases of food for family to eat”.

“Over seven million people are already facing extreme hunger in the two countries. Unless developing partners immediately meet the US$253.9 million UN appeal, currently 22% funded, to help people rebuild their lives, millions more of people will have nothing to eat”, said Amjad.

Cyclone Freddy is another glaring reminder of how the people least responsible for climate change continue to pay the steepest price. The estimated loss and damage for Malawi and Mozambique is US$0.5 and US$1.5 billion respectively and the unmet financial need for them to strengthen their adaptive capacity to cope with these recurrent extreme events is skyrocketing.

“Rich polluting nations must honor their US$100 billion climate financing to support countries hit hardest like Malawi and Mozambique, sadly that is not the case,” said Amjad.

Oxfam’s “Climate Finance Shadow Report 2023” published in June 2023 shows that while donors claim to have mobilized US$83.3 billion in 2020, the real value of their spending was —at most— US$24.5 billion. The US$83.3 billion claim is an overestimation because it includes projects where the climate objective has been overstated or as loans cited at their face value.

Notes to the Editor