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Breakfast Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 08:37 GMT
Breakfast in Malawi: Famine
Famine in Malawi
14 million people are at risk of starvation
Breakfast continues a series of special reports by Claire Sweeney from Malawi where she spent a week touring villages and projects aimed at helping the people there.

The country has been ravaged by AIDS and famine and in today's report Claire asks why the famine keeps happening despite the fact that aid has been given to the country.

  • We had the second of Claire Sweeney's special reports from Malawi on Thursday's programme. Click on the link below to see that report.


  • We also heard from Christian Aid's Colette Fearon


    Claire takes up the story:

    Last year across Southern Africa 14 million people were at risk of starvation. For two years, the harvests had failed because of drought and then, in Malawi, the rains came causing serious flooding.

    British charities stepped in, bringing food to those who need it. Much of it was funded by money raised in the UK. Sixteen million pounds in total. And now it looks as though it got there in time.

    We went to see food distribution in Salima. It was overwhelming being in the midst of the hundreds who'd gathered from miles around.

    And it's not as if the people here aren't willing to help themselves. Men, women and children carry sacks on their heads for a whole day. I couldn't even pick up one.

    The villagers of Kasonda were anxious to take their grain back before the rains began again. A committee decides how much each family will be given. But however much they try, I found it hard to see how this country can stop living from hand to mouth.

    For every one dollar countries in Southern Africa receive in aid - 14 dollar has to be paid back in debt to Western countries.

    And it's not just the threat of starvation. Aids is quietly crippling Malawi. Half of all families have a relative affected by chronic illness because of the virus.

    And it's the adults who're dying in their hundreds of thousands. It's the very people who are most needed to work in the fields. Now the old and the young are being left to fend for themselves.

    Then there's the climate. We met a woman called Afaida - she isn't sure how old she is but she knows she's lived in her village all her life.

    She had hoped all four of her grandchildren could too. But last week the floods forced her and her family to move to the temporary shelters set up by Save the Children.

    But Afaida told me she had been lucky: she and her husband are still able to farm and her one week old grandchild is healthy.

    As the rains cease, the flood waters are subsiding and some people will soon be able to move back to their homes. But like thousands of others across Malawi, Afaida's home is too badly damaged to go back to.

    She must wait until the Village Chief is able to find some new land for them to settle in. A land, she hopes, where she can stay.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    Claire Sweeney Malawi

    Colette Fearon

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    29 Jan 03 | Country profiles
    21 Feb 03 | Africa
    18 Feb 03 | Africa
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