CAFOD and its local partners have been monitoring the situation for sometime and plan to 'scale-up' its response to the food shortages across Southern African countries, which includes Malawi. January to April are considered 'lean or hungry months' - that's the time of real hardship in the final stages of waiting for the harvest, when people have exhausted food stocks. What is emerging is that people are already short of food now, implying that lean months are starting earlier than usual because the last harvest was so poor. CAFOD have sent additional staff to the region over the last week, but say it is important to recognise that the current situation in Malawi is not a one-off crisis, but a historically precarious food situation in the region. There are two underlying issues that have compounded the food shortages; drought and HIV/AIDS; it is estimated that 85 per cent of Malawians make a living through small-scale or subsistence farming and much of the country's agriculture relies on rain-fed farming. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has severely weakened the ability of the region to cope during hard times. Nearly 15 per cent - 1.9 million of Malawi's adult population have HIV or Aids. Many of those infected are young men and women, who when healthy would be working the land or cultivating their small plots. Food shortages, and the images of thousands of hungry people waiting for food distributions, is very emotive, and there is a need to react, but CAFOD believes that this should be done carefully and in a strategic manner, to ensure that assistance is given in the most effective way possible and the longer erm issues are addressed. In the meantime CAFOD's local partners are responding, they are best placed to identify those communities and families most at risk, through their various programmes.
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