Frontline Stories

Mango for Lunch Again

It is 12 noon and time for lunch. For little Janet in Malawi, that means another meal of boiled mangoes. This has been her breakfast, lunch and supper for the past two weeks and she does not know when she may get to eat something else.

At the far end of the veranda, Janet's 10-year-old brother, Lojasi, is lying in pain. He has been sick for more than a week now and Fanny, their mother, does not know what to do. ''We are just waiting for God to touch him,'' says his elder brother Leonard, who in the absence of a father in the house has assumed the role at an early age. Without proper food, Lojasi's body is gradually losing strength. Janet carries a mango to her sick brother who smiles in appreciation but sadly cannot eat.

Fanny and her community saw their gardens washed away during the flood early in the year. ''Honestly, we harvested almost nothing from the garden and the maize did not even last a week, after which we had to get a job to work for food,'' said Leonard who works day and night supporting his mother to bring food to the table. Fanny and her children have been working to earn money for food since March. For a family that was already struggling, life is getting worse. And since the flood disrupted the economy of the village, life is becoming a nightmare.

''The people we used to depend on in the past years are also hungry today. Some of them only have a little food which they cannot share, as they are also not so sure of tomorrow,'' says Fanny.

''It is difficult to be in class while my mother is working to feed us,'' says Leonard. ''When I am in class on Wednesday, my thoughts are always with mum and my little brothers on what they are doing, and what would we eat,'' he adds, before breaking down into tears.

For Leonard, he just wants to go to school and find a job that will liberate the entire family from poverty. Unfortunately, contrary to his dream, Leonard and his siblings always miss school . They attend classes just once a week, four days a month.

Walking around the community, the dryness of the ground is threatening. Many children look malnourished. Rain that will help crops grow is not expected until the next year. It is also feared the effects of El Nino could extend the current drought.

Christina Chimala, chairperson of the local Area Development Committee, says, ''The food insecurity has reached alarming levels for many, and children are hit the hardest. We have had food problems in the past, but this year is something else. Every day, I have people visiting me and other leaders requesting for support which we can't provide at all,'' she explains. ''We fear for the children who are becoming malnourished. We fear that something far beyond malnutrition may happen if help continues to delay.''

World Vision has started an emergency food aid response in the community, in partnership with the World Food Programme and the Malawi Government.

This is Janet's hope for survival.

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