16 October 2015. SciDev. Floods followed by drought have led to a 30 per cent reduction in Malawi’s maize harvest and left the country facing its most severe food crisis for over ten years. Between now and March, more than two million Malawians will struggle to find enough food, the UN’s World Food Programme forecasts.
On top of this, much of the harvest will be contaminated with a toxin that can cause cancer and liver damage, and stunt children’s growth. Aflatoxins are produced by fungi that contaminate crops including groundnut, maize, sorghum and cassava. The stress of drought increases the risk of contamination. Throughout the developing world, it is estimated that around 4.5 billion people are exposed to aflatoxins.
In Malawi, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics found that nearly two-thirds of people tested were “highly exposed” to aflatoxins. They also discovered that 73 per cent of samples of groundnut powder were contaminated at levels above the European Union safety limit.
This photo gallery visits an area of Malawi where aflatoxin contamination is common and examines work to prevent contamination and reduce malnourishment among children.