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Malawi: helping to feed the most vulnerable

There are 640 people in the queue at the Dzaone Trading Centre in Chikowi, Malawi. Those at the front were here as early as 5am, while those at the back have quite a wait on their hands.

Despite this, there’s a festive atmosphere and no one seems to mind much about the wait. In fact the people we speak to tell us it’s a very exciting morning indeed.

Floods and drought

Food insecurity is currently affecting an estimated 1.97 million people across Malawi after both floods and droughts have caused serious food shortages.

Some areas have experienced four consecutive poor harvests and as many as 15 out of 28 districts are affected by the crisis.

Even before the current crisis, 40% of Malawi’s population was living below the poverty line.

“I know I will have food”

In response to the food crisis Save the Children have started up an emergency cash transfer scheme, which specifically targets parent-less families, the elderly, the chronically ill and other vulnerable people.

“This is a very good initiative taken by Save the Children; I am excited and I know I will have food for myself and my grandchildren,” explained Gogo Nambewe, an elderly lady waiting in the queue who had come to collect her cash transfer as early as 6am.

She told us that she’s been struggling to get enough food for her and her grandchildren, who she looks after at home, for a long time now.

But thanks to the scheme she’ll now be able to use this money to feed them all for the next month.

Mobile technology

For the first time in this area mobile phone technology is being used to process the transfers and for many, including Gogo, this is the first time they’ve ever owned a mobile phone.

We’ve partnered with Airtel Malawi, one of the largest mobile phone operators in the country, for this scheme and both Save the Children and Airtel staff are on hand to help throughout the day.

Soon Gogo is at the front of the queue, she couldn’t believe that it was even possible to receive money through a phone. Yet after five minutes she leaves with her 8250 Kwacha clutched tightly in her hand.

She comes over to me – a massive smile on her face – and shows me the bundle of notes.

“You know what?” she says, “This is food for the next four weeks,” and with that she gives a little dance and is off home.

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