A Crisis Continues: Drought's Impact on Malawi and Zambia

Eighteen million people in Malawi and Zambia now need urgent humanitarian assistance due to extensive consequences from the severe drought. The ripple effects of this climate crisis are catastrophic. The lack of rainfall is creating economic hardships since large segments of these populations rely on agriculture.  

 In Zambia alone, there have been numerous drought-related cattle deaths. Families are unable to support themselves or send their children to school, impacting child development and behaviors. 

It is projected that malnutrition, poverty, morbidity and mortality rates will continue to increase in this region. We recently spoke with two of our partners at the Chiphwanya Health Centre in Malawi. Sr. Teresa and Sr. Rose, both Teresian Sisters, illustrated the dire situation.  

“We have experienced many droughts throughout our lifetime,” said Sister Rose, “but none have compared to the current drought in our community. It is so much worse.” They explained that all areas of their community are struggling, from community health to education and everything in between. Farmers’ cherished crops are dying, and their yields are nowhere large enough to feed or support local families. The smaller yields are leading to exponentially higher food costs. Malnutrition rates are soaring in Zambia and Malawi, with 34% and 49% increases, respectively. Pregnant mothers are not able to receive the nutrients needed to support themselves and their child, so more babies are being born with low birth weights.  

Illness is increasing significantly. Due to reduced water availability, and higher concentration of contaminants, waterborne illnesses among children have increased by 14% across three sites in Malawi.  The drought has also led to cholera outbreaks in almost all major cities in Zambia and Malawi. The Sisters explained that people are traveling farther distances for water, and the water they find is not always safe to drink. 

Medicines for Humanity is continuing to respond. Kenneth Muko, Medicines for Humanity Program Director, explains “Our current projects are in sync with government guidance and assessment results that focus on minimizing malnutrition and increasing access to safe drinking water. We are listening to local communities to hear what they need. We need to find additional resources so we can expand our projects to other provinces to reach even more people.” 

 Currently, Medicines for Humanity is drilling 10 boreholes to provide drinking and agricultural water to at least 35,000 people in Malawi and Zambia. In addition to boreholes, Kenneth and Gray Kawimbe, Zambia Country Coordinator, are working with local agriculture officials in Zambia to provide training  on drip irrigation and drought tolerant crops to support long term initiatives.   

Medicines for Humanity adapts and perseveres in the face of challenges. We are dedicated to create sustainable solutions where we work to not only save lives today but in the future as well.  


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