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Country analysis

Malawi


Three million people in Malawi faced Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity levels from July–September 2023. The situation is projected to worsen from October 2023 to March 2024, with 4.4 million people in IPC 3 or worse, including 266,000 in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The key assumptions likely to worsen food insecurity in Malawi from October 2023 to March 2024 include unstable macroeconomic conditions, seasonal performance, the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, an increase in the cost of production and food stocks, and deteriorating nutrition and health status.

Malawi's economy has also been deteriorating since 2020, mostly from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2024, shortages in fuel and basic items and a further increase in the prices of both because of soaring inflation are expected to continue affecting living standards. Several anti-government protests to denounce the high cost of living and high unemployment rates took place throughout 2023 and are expected to continue in 2024.

Malawi experiences frequent droughts and floods. With its economy heavily reliant on agriculture, the consequences of extreme weather events affect the livelihoods of both rural communities and non-farm and urban households, as well as the overall economy of the country.

(IPC 18/08/2023, FEWS NET 05/01/2024, DCCMS accessed 07/02/2024, Civicus 29/01/2024, AFDB accessed 07/02/2024)

Three million people in Malawi faced Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity levels from July–September 2023. The situation is projected to worsen from October 2023 to March 2024, with 4.4 million people in IPC 3 or worse, including 266,000 in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The key assumptions likely to worsen food insecurity in Malawi from October 2023 to March 2024 include unstable macroeconomic conditions, seasonal performance, the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, an increase in the cost of production and food stocks, and deteriorating nutrition and health status.

Malawi's economy has also been deteriorating since 2020, mostly from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2024, shortages in fuel and basic items and a further increase in the prices of both because of soaring inflation are expected to continue affecting living standards. Several anti-government protests to denounce the high cost of living and high unemployment rates took place throughout 2023 and are expected to continue in 2024.

Malawi experiences frequent droughts and floods. With its economy heavily reliant on agriculture, the consequences of extreme weather events affect the livelihoods of both rural communities and non-farm and urban households, as well as the overall economy of the country.

(IPC 18/08/2023, FEWS NET 05/01/2024, DCCMS accessed 07/02/2024, Civicus 29/01/2024, AFDB accessed 07/02/2024)

Latest updates on country situation

22 February 2024

A persistent dry spell since mid-January 2024 resulting from the impact of El Nino will likely worsen food insecurity in Malawi. Most farmers are in danger, as most of them have been experiencing acute food shortages since April 2023 given the impact of Cyclone Freddy, which affected most parts of the south. Between October 2023 to March 2024, 4.4 million people faced Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse food insecurity levels. (The Nation 19/02/2024, IPC 18/08/2023)

25 June 2023

As at 22 June, 38 IDP camps were still active, sheltering over 78,000 people from the impact of Cyclone Freddy. The cyclone significantly affected food security, with over two million farmers losing their livestock and crops and more than 179,000 hectares of agricultural land being destroyed, adding 1.6 million people to the 3.8 million Malawians who were already experiencing acute food insecurity before Cyclone Freddy’s landfall. (WHO 25/06/2023, USAID 23/06/2023, IPS 30/03/2023)

05 June 2023

Between 17–26 May 2023, Malawian authorities detained 902 refugees and asylum seekers after the deadline for relocation to the Dzaleka refugee camp elapsed on 15 April. The strict policy of encampment is attributed to the allegations that refugees and asylum seekers pose economic challenges and security risks. As at May 2023, the Dzaleka refugee camp designed to accommodate 12,000 refugees hosted an estimated 50,600 refugees, including 32,000 from Congo, 11,000 from Burundi, and 6,000 from Rwanda. The overcrowded camp cannot adequately meet the needs of the refugees in terms of food, healthcare, water, shelter, and sanitation. (HRW 05/06/2023, UNHCR 24/05/2023)

23 May 2023

As at May 2023, the food insecurity situation in Malawi had put over 573,000 children under five and 228,000 pregnant and lactating women at risk of malnutrition. Over 62,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition throughout this year as a result of the environmental crisis, disease outbreaks, and global economic disruptions.


In February–March 2023, Cyclone Freddy made landfall twice and caused significant damage, including the loss of critical infrastructure and livelihoods, with 300,000 livestock and 200,000 hectares of crops being lost. The agricultural sector has been particularly hard-hit, with over 1.4 million individuals affected, of whom 280,000 are in urgent need of emergency assistance. Those who are at risk of malnutrition and have been affected by Cyclone Freddy need food, nutrition, health services, WASH, shelter, and NFIs.
(UNICEF 19/05/2023, FAO 17/05/2023, UNICEF Accessed 23/05/2023)

11 April 2023

The aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Freddy in southern Malawi has been devastating, with flooding and landslides affecting an estimated 2.3 million people and leaving more than 670 dead, 500 missing, and over 659,000 displaced.


The displaced are sheltering in schools, churches, and community centres. Biantyre, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Nsanje, and Phalombe have been the hardest-hit districts. Those affected urgently need WASH services, shelter, food, and NFIs.
(OCHA 07/04/2023, WFP 06/04/2023)

current crises
in Malawi


These crises have been identified through the INFORM Severity Index, a tool for measuring and comparing the severity of humanitarian crises globally.

Read more about the Index

MWI005 - Tropical Cyclone Freddy

Last updated 31/01/2024


Drivers

Cyclone

Crisis level

Country

Severity level

3 Medium

Access constraints

2.0

MWI002 - Complex

Last updated 31/01/2024


Drivers

Drought
Socio-political
Cyclone

Crisis level

Country

Severity level

3.4 High

Access constraints

2.0

REG012 - Southern Africa Regional Food Security Crisis

Last updated 31/01/2024


Drivers


Crisis level

Regional

Severity level

3.9 High

Access constraints

4.0

Analysis products
on Malawi

Malawi: cholera outbreak

12 December 2022

Malawi: cholera outbreak

DOCUMENT / PDF / 403 KB

Since March 2022, Malawi has been experiencing the largest cholera outbreak reported in the last decade. Malawi needs medical supplies, vaccines, health worker training, and awareness campaigns on cholera to tackle the outbreak. People lack clean water and access to hygiene and sanitation. 

Health
Malawi: Floods, Update I

19 March 2019

Malawi: Floods, Update I

DOCUMENT / PDF / 386 KB

Since our last publication, severe flooding has continued in southern and central regions of Malawi. In total, an estimated 922,900 people have been affected across 14 districts, with 56 deaths and 577 injuries reported and more than 125,000 displaced.

Natural hazards
Malawi: Floods

12 March 2019

Malawi: Floods

DOCUMENT / PDF / 570 KB

Heavy rains over 5-8 March caused flooding in the Southern region of Malawi. As of 10 March, at least 14 districts have been impacted, affecting approximately 468,650 people and displacing more than 31,700 people. Assessments are ongoing. 

Natural hazards
View more