After escaping a large-scale onset of coronavirus in 2020, the early weeks of 2021 have seen Malawi facing an onslaught as the pandemic has hit hard. Official numbers have escalated rapidly and anecdotal reports of illness and death suggest that many cases go unreported.
Of course, this is no different from what has been experienced in many different countries but it still comes as a shock when it hits close to home. Malawians are coming to terms with the need to counter the pandemic as a matter of life and death.
In Malawi it is not the only matter of life and death that has to be faced. At this time of year annually there is a question about rainfall and whether it will be sufficient to allow farmers to raise their maize crop. Maize provides the staple food and flourishes with steady rain and intermittent sunshine. It is vulnerable, however, to drying up if there is a drought or to being washed away if there is a flood.
Either of these are ever-present possibilities, especially with the disturbed climactic patterns of our times. There were an anxious few days just after Christmas when a cyclone in the Indian Ocean looked like it might head in Malawi’s direction. Thankfully its force was spent before it reached Malawi and the country has been blessed with gentle and frequent rain – perfect for the farmers.
It will still be some time before the crops are ready to harvest but the situation is promising. The anxious farmer can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to being able to feed the family in the coming year.
This is important every year in a context where the threat of hunger is ever present. All the more so when another killer threatens in the form of a merciless disease. With limited resources it is not at all easy for Malawi to cope with the effects of the coronavirus. A good harvest and a secure food supply for the next year can be at least one step in the right direction.