Food fears impact families in Malawi

Earlier this year some of the worst flooding in Malawi’s history hit the country. Here, our founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow explains the lasting consequences of the floods and how Mary’s Meals is continuing to bring hope to so many affected families.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow
Mary's Meals founder and CEO

Back to all stories | Posted on 23 November 15 in Update from Magnus

Earlier this year Malawi was hit by some of the worst floods in its history. Homes were swept away like matchsticks, endless plains were turned into mud and vast fields of precious crop were drowned. The floods left mum of six, Joyce Petro, and her family desperately clinging to an ant hill, while the swirling waters took her home, the soil in her fields and everything she and her husband had ever owned.

But the merciless floodwaters swept away more than precious possessions that day – Joyce lost her livelihood and her ability to provide for her children.

She almost lost hope.

The next morning Joyce and her family were rescued and taken to higher ground at Mchenga Primary School, where we have been providing Mary’s Meals since 2011. We started serving our porridge twice a day, feeding both the pupils and the displaced families alike, but also providing essential supplies to the many homeless families who sought refuge there.

“We had no home, crops or fields to return back to and because of Mary’s Meals we are now living in this area close to the school, so at least my children can eat phala (porridge) and remain in education,” Joyce says today, sitting outside her one room rented mud house in Mchenga.

After the floods many other families also stayed – the enrolment at the school rose from 900 to well over 1000 students and, thanks to your wonderful support, we made sure all the children could receive porridge every day.

But now another threat, perhaps even greater than the floods, is starting to grip Malawi. This year’s harvest is pitiful. The maize crop yielded 30% less than normal. Here, where each year many struggle to feed themselves, and where maize is the staple food, this is nothing short of catastrophic. Food prices are soaring.

We expect enrolment and attendance rates to increase in 20 affected districts where we feed. For most children, the phala will be all they eat each day. Over two million people will soon need assistance to survive. Joyce and her family are already desperate.

“We don’t have anything to eat. We didn’t have anything today. We didn’t have anything yesterday and we probably will not have anything tomorrow.  If it wasn’t for Mary’s Meals my children would have no food at all to eat in a day. I don’t think some of them would be with us today,” she says.

And yet even in this most desperate of situations, the hope that Mary’s Meals brings of a better future cannot be extinguished.

Joyce’s nine-year-old son, Yohane, has been attending Mchenga primary school since they sought refuge here several months ago. Life has been tough, but still he smiles: “I have not missed a single day in school and I enjoy the porridge very much. You know, maybe if I continue to attend school and eat Mary’s Meals I can one day be a doctor. Then we won’t have to worry about where my meal will come from the next day, but instead help other poor families!”

It’s because of your staggering support, that, working together, we know we’ll be ready for the influx of terribly hungry children expected to flock to the schools where we feed.

More than ever we want to provide Mary’s Meals to the children in Malawi who are still waiting.

One way to help them survive this food crisis, and equip them for the years to come, is to provide them with a promise of daily food at school, to allow them to gain an education that can make their dream of a better future come true.  

And at the same time we can remove one of the heaviest burdens weighing down so many parents across this land by answering the question that haunts many of them:

‘How will I feed my child tomorrow?’