Hunger grips in Malawi maize crisis.
By Karen Allen BBC East Africa correspondent, Malawi.
The main government maize market in Mulanje is packed. It is seven o clock in the morning and many Malawians we stumble across have been queueing for days. Queueing on empty stomachs and with bare feet. Tired and hungry Malawians often have to queue for days to get food. Mothers whose breast milk has dried up due to lack of food, jostle for space, their babies strapped to their backs in the traditional African way.
Occasionally a scuffle breaks out as some hungry person, accused of pushing in, is plucked from the queue by police officers. These are Malawi's poorest people - unable to buy maize on the open market where prices have doubled in recent months. Stocks in the main government markets are diminishing fast, so they're starting to impose rations. The worse harvest in a decade and failed rains are being blamed for what aid agencies warn is a rapidly emerging food crisis. What is making matters worse is HIV-Aids. One in seven people in Malawi is affected and it is fuelling the problem of extreme hunger.
Money that households would normally spend on buying seed and fertiliser, is being spent on transporting the sick to hospital and buying basic medicine instead. Malawians, particularly in the parched south of the country, are well used to hardship, but their ability to cope is being severely eroded.