By World Food Program (WFP)

LILONGWE, Malawi, January 16, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is gearing up its response to the disaster declared by the President of Malawi in flood-affected districts of the country. Working with the Government and with other humanitarian partners, WFP is moving to flooded areas stocks of food from its regular programmes that will be replenished once the crisis is over.

A government-led agriculture and food security humanitarian cluster has been activated to help coordinate the response. Initial estimates suggest that as many as 20,000 households (or 110,000 people) have been displaced. Many more are likely to require assistance. With more rain forecast, there is concern that these numbers may rise.

WFP is planning an airlift of more than 100 metric tons of High-Energy Biscuits from the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai, enough to meet the immediate food needs of some 77,000 people. Ready-to-eat food will be prioritised for the most vulnerable people, particularly children, who have been displaced from their homes and have no access to food or cooking facilities.

Access to the hardest-hit areas to assess the situation has been extremely difficult as the floods have washed away many roads and bridges. Worst affected has been the south of the country, particularly the districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and has one of the highest rates of stunting among children worldwide. More than 40 per cent of children are stunted (have low growth for their age) as a result of undernutrition. Last year, WFP reached some 4 million people with food assistance in Malawi.