Tuesday, January 20, 2009

(NYASATIMES) Malawi in maize cirisis –religious body

Malawi in maize cirisis –religious body
19 January, 2009 01:45:00

Government’s obduracy that there no maize crisis has been challenged by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) which has voiced out in a statement that there should demonstration to prove that there is enough maize and ensuring that people have access to the grain.

“There are cases where people are spending days looking for maize at empty Admarc depots thereby enduring much suffering. All this is happening when government is claiming that there are more than enough maize reserves,” pointed out PAC in a statement signed by its Chairman PAC Chairman Boniface Tamani and Publicity Secretary Maurice Munthali.

“Among those affected by maize scarcity are those who cannot find maize because it is unavailable at the Admarc distribution points and again those who cannot afford to buy even if it is available.

“With regard to both cases, government has the responsibility to ensure that people have access to maize by employing effective distribution systems or by providing relief. There is evidence that maize scarcity in some areas of the country is aggravated by hiccups in the distribution systems which government is implementing through Admarc,” said the statement released on Friday.

Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) executive director Rafiq Hajat concurred with the politically unaligned religious grouping that government should ensure effective maize distribution in Admarc depots and protect traders from buying the grain wholesale.

"It is a known fact that Admarc personnel have a civil service mentality and there managers collude with private traders to buy all the maize. This is being driven by corruption and profiteering without concern for the suffering poor people," said Hajat in an interview with Nyasa Times.

The activist further blamed President Bingu wa Mutharika administration for exporting 400,000 metric tonnes to Zimbabwe without analyzing the local food situation.

"We are brought back to the same question of whether it was logical to sell maize to Zimbabwe without firstly looking at our own situation," said Hajat.

"It is ironic that we are boasting about foot security yet people are dying of hunger, and some are eating roots, leaves and maize husks for survival," IPI boss said.

Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati maintained there is enough grain at the silos and that the question of food shortage does not arise.

“We have enough maize in our silos and we are releasing it to all Admarc depots. There will be no-one who will die of hunger,” said Kaliati.

Apparently, hunger related deaths are being recorded in the hospitals and The Nation reported that one man died of hunger in Balaka district and there reports that dozens of children continue to suffer malnutrition.

PAC said it is not enough to give such assurances when some people are complaining on the ground.

“Trying to save face and safeguard reputation will not solve the country's problems. There is need for concrete actions to ensure that Admarc is effectively delivering to the people to avoid a much more serious food crisis,” said the religious body.

PAC acknowledged in the statement that issues of food security - at times like these - are usually open to political manipulation and “some statements being made on the matter tends to be sensational”.

Nonetheless, the body says the current food situation calls for urgent action.

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