A dark crowd has engulfed the area of Traditional Authority Tambala in Dedza as three people starved to death on Tuesday and two more died after eating poisonous yams while thousands others are fearing for their lives due to pangs of hunger that have tightly gripped the area.
Traditional Authority Tambala and Assistant Disaster Risk Management Officer for the district, Zione Viyazyi, have confirmed the tragedy in separate interviews.
Both Tambala and Viyazyi have expressed fears that more deaths are imminent if food relief to the area is delayed.
Viyazyi said during the 2012-2013 growing season there was insufficient harvest in most parts of Dedza and T/A Tambala's area was one of the worst hit areas due to dry spells experienced during the critical months of crop development and this has led to hunger in thousands of households.
"People have resorted to having one meal a day to survive. The meal is composed of banana roots, unripe bananas, wild yams that are poisonous and cooked green mangoes," she said.
She added: "The consumption of wild yams is a risk that the people are taking in order to survive since it is poisonous. To make it safe, the people have to cook it for hours and continuously changing the water. If cooked whilst covered and with less water added, whoever consumes it will most likely develop a swollen stomach with a possibility of death resulting from it. The banana root tubers are cut and dried before pounding to make floor."
Tambala has appealed to government to quickly extend a helping hand saying he fears for the worst.
"People in my area are going hungry since dry spells destroyed our maize crop entirely and we harvested literary nothing," he said.
He said though people in his area received fertilizer subsidy coupons; very few are working in their fields because of the hunger situation.
"People are more concerned with what they shall eat now. Some people have resorted to fetching firewood in Thuma forest reserve to exchange with food items from the few people that have food hence they are failing to work in their fields and the hunger situation may recur next year," he said.
Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report for 2012-2013 growing season indicated that only 347 households would need food assistance but Viyazyi contends that the figure is unrealistically very low.
She said the low figure has led to inadequate food relief response from
"Traditional Authority Tambala has 44 Group Village Headmen. Out of all these villages, only six are benefitting from the World Food Program MVAC response. However, 23 group villages are facing similar problems of food shortage," she said.
The prolonged dry spells also affected the area of Traditional Authority Chauma which has also been hit by hunger.
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