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Hunger and Starvation: Malawians turn to Rats as the main source of food amid COVID-19

A Young Malawian Displaying Mouse for Meal: Photo Courtesy

Popular snacks when food is scarce, mice have become an important source of protein in Malawi since the coronavirus outbreak that has dealt badly with food supply and economic capabilities.

Vendors are said to be standing along Malawi’s main highway, targeting motorists traveling between the two largest cities, Blantyre and Lilongwe. The rodents are Seasoned and cooked to a crisp, and are also sold at street stalls and markets across the southeast African country.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are some of the worrying issues in the small, landlocked nation, where more than half of the population live below the poverty line. The coronavirus surge has infected nearly 5,500 people and killed more than 170,  exacerbating food shortages as many livelihoods have been curtailed by confinement measures.

 mice hunter Bernard Simeon, from Malawi’s central Ntcheu district, says the pandemic has brought new complexities to his already poverty-stricken life.

“We were already struggling before the coronavirus,” he said shortly after preparing his daily mice to catch.”But now because of the disease, things have really gone bad.”

 The netizens say when times are hard they rely on mice to supplement our diet because they cannot afford to buy meat.

Malawi’s government has promised a $50 (42-euro) monthly stipend for people who lost income due to anti-corona virus regulations that restricted movement and business.

The scheme is yet to materialize as the government said roll-out logistics were still being fine-tuned.

In the meantime, Health officials have urged the poorest communities in the rural villages to supplement their diets with free and naturally available resources where the principal nutritionist  Sylvester Kathumba said Mice are one of the sources of proteins.

“We have been encouraging a diet of all food groups, especially in this time of coronavirus which attacks people with low immunity,” said Francis Nthalika, nutrition coordinator at a government-run health office in the Balaka district.

Balaka District is tucked into Malawi’s Southern Region and is widely associated with mouse hunting. Environmentalists, however, have voiced concern about damage caused by hunting methods as demand increases.

The rodents are typically found in cornfields, where they grow plump on grains, fruit, grass, and the odd insect.

Hunters burn bushes after crops are harvested,  to identify mice holes so they can trap them. In so doing they destroy a lot of the ecosystem within the bush as reported by Duncan Maphwesesa, director of the Balaka-based environmental rights group Azitona Development Services.

They don’t see that they are affecting the environment and that they are part and parcel of those who are causing climate change.

The tradition is hard to break affair as a fifty-year-old musician Lucius Banda reminisces about mouse-hunting adventures during his youth in rural Balaka.

“As a village boy, you learn how to hunt mice from as early as three years old,” said Banda, a former two-time parliamentarian for the district. Banda added that children in his village were fed mice as a treat even before they tasted beef.

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