Christmas letter from Malawi

 Many thanks for Father Patrick Hagan from St Kizito Parish, Lilongwe, for this letter. Dear Friends, Christmas Greetings from Malawi. In sharp contrast to most of the world at this time of the year, here in Malawi the emphasis is on survival. It is believed about four million people need food aid to survive to the next harvest in April. In our parish, we have tried to identify the most needy in our little patch, and we plan to help upwards of 150 families. Yesterday, 21 December, we distributed 75 bags (50 kg.) of Maize and some beans that will take the recipients over the Christmas period. Each household got 25 kg. of Maize and two kg of beans. The new crop of Maize is above ground and looking healthy with the seasonal rains. However, at this time last season everything looked fine, but two weeks without rain in January burned up most of the crop, and a lot of what survived rotted on the stalks with late rains in April. So it is hard to get it just right. Long term, the only solution is to diversify with crops such as Rice, Cassava, and Sorghum or Millet. But it will take time and patience and education to wean people off maize or else to find a tougher form of maize that can survive the vagaries of our weather. It would be nice to have more pleasant things to report on in the festive season, but this is the reality on the ground. There is one happier story. The wider availability of ARV (anti retroviral) drugs in this part of the world for people with aids has certainly improved their condition. But for these drugs to be effective, they must be supplemented with nutritious food, and must be taken daily for the rest of one's life. So here we are in the southern hemisphere in high summer (hot season and wet season together) a hot and sticky Christmas upon us, average temperature these days 32 to 35 degrees Celsius, and humidity at 96% at sunrise and down to 87% around midday. Sincere thanks for all your contributions, without which more people, in this neck of the woods, would have a hungry Christmas. Wishing you all a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year. Sincerely, Patrick Hagan

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