Members of Parliament (MPs) have been dared to prioritise the plight of 4.4 million people facing hunger in the country and scrutinise the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) when they meet for the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting.
Both the opposition and civil society organisations (CSOs) have said legislators hold the key to pushing for increased allocation of funds to resolve the crisis and save lives.
Trapence: Parliament must debate the issue
The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) report said 4.4 million people need humanitarian support as they face acute food shortage.
Worsened by the impact of Cyclone Freddy in March this year, the number is an increase of 600 000 from last year’s 3.8 million people who were starving and represents about 22 percent of the country’s projected 19.6 million population.
In an interview yesterday, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa said the hunger issue needs to top the agenda as opposition lawmakers, especially from the cyclone-hit districts in the Southern Region, are keen to hear how government intends to respond to the hunger crisis.
He said lawmakers will also seek an explanation on how the design of this year’s AIP will solve perennial food shortage in the country.
Nankhumwa said he is concerned that the reduction of AIP beneficiaries this year from 3.5 million to 1.5 million could lead to another acute food shortage next year.
He said: “Parliament allocated K109 billion for the programme to cater for 3.2 million people, but all of a sudden the figure of beneficiaries has been slashed to one million.
“So, what happened to the money meant for the other left out beneficiaries? What would happen to those expected to benefit only to be deleted at the eleventh hour? Is government not deliberately creating food insecurity next year?”
Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said apart from tackling hunger, the House will also debate six new Bills, among others.
“We will also have several ministerial statements on a number of issues of national concern,” he said.
The Bills include Judicial Service and Administration Bill, Public Service Bill, Ombudsman Act (Amendment) Bill, Tobacco Bill and Elderly Bill.
In a separate interview yesterday, Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Gift Trapance said the hunger crisis deserved the attention of Parliament as it puts the right to food under threat.
He said government, with the help of Parliament, needs to resolve it as a matter of urgency.
Said Trapence: “We expect Parliament to come up with interventions that will not only address the hunger crisis, but also grow the economy.
“Growing the economy is key to alleviating poverty and hunger in particular; hence, the need to prioritise this area during the upcoming deliberations.”
He also said the persistent foreign exchange scarcity can be resolved if Parliament works to find ways that improve the economy such as improving the level of exports.
Centre for Accountability and Transparency executive director Willie Kambwandira agreed with Trapence, saying Parliament must not ignore to discuss the hunger crisis and implementation of the resource-demanding AIP.
He said: “We expect Parliament to adjust the budget to reflect the realities on the ground, including solving hunger and realistic revenue collection projections.
“Government must spell out clear strategies on how it plans to resolve AIP problems, fuel, corruption and hunger.”
Recently, human rights activist Sylvester Namiwa, who is also the executive director for Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives, said Parliament must leave politics aside and come up with measures based on humanitarian values to resolve the current food crisis.
He suggested quick distribution of food to the most vulnerable to avert a catastrophe.
According to Mvac, out of the 2023/24 food-insecure people, 470 000 are from the four cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba while 3.9 million are in rural areas across the country.
The number of affected people in rural areas has increased by 23 percent from 3.1 million in the 2022/23 consumption year while urban areas have registered a decline by 25 percent from 627 571 people.
Parliament will meet from November 13 to December 8.