Malawi faces a widespread famine affecting 40 percent of its population, warns Anglican mission agency USPG.

According to George Willow, a senior staffer from the Anglican Council of Malawi, hunger is becoming increasingly acute in what is already a lean season.

Residents of rural areas are affected most deeply, despite efforts by the national government to alleviate the situation.

“The rains have started well in some areas, but in other areas there is too much or too little,” Willow said. “The government is importing maize from neighboring countries, which is being stored throughout Malawi, but a problem is that the price of the staple food has doubled, meaning many households are unable to afford maize to feed themselves.”

He added: “International organizations are trying their best to distribute food to vulnerable families, but the task is too large.”

USPG says famine is also affecting neighboring Zimbabwe and the island nation of Madagascar, where the three Anglican dioceses are active in drought relief.