Malawians continue to face disasters from communal level to national level. Rainy season has proved to be the worst time when disasters hit hard. Malawi News Agency (Mana) reporter MPHATSO LASTONE NKUONERA engages the Department of Disaster Management (DoDMA) Public Relations Officer, CHIPILIRO KHAMULA, to shed more light on the situation in the country. Experts.
What is the current general overview of disasters in the country?
Since 12 October 2017, disasters which include flash floods, strong winds, heavy rains and hailstorms, have occurred in 23 local authorities (19 districts, two cities and two municipal councils of the country) as follows:
In the Central Region, disasters have hit Mchinji, Lilongwe, Dedza, Dowa, Ntcheu, Salima, Kasungu and Nkhotakota. The Southern Region has Mulanje, Mwanza, Phalombe, Machinga, Mangochi, Chiradzulu and Zomba as the affected districts whereas four districts in the Northern Region, namely; Chitipa, Karonga, Rumphi and Nkhata Bay have been affected. Lilongwe and Mzuzu Cities have also been affected whereas Kasungu and Luchenza are the affected municipalities. The impacts of the disasters include loss of lives, injuries, damage to houses and property as well as destruction of crop fields and infrastructure. A total of 14 deaths [seven in Lilongwe, three in Dedza, two in Nkhotakota one in Machinga and Zomba and 88 injuries have been recorded as of January 9, 2018. A cumulative total of 8,671 households, which is approximately 47,691 people, have been affected.
What are the main challenges the department is facing to contain the disasters haunting the country?
The major challenge has always been the delay by councils to promptly furnish us with disaster needs assessment reports which form the basis of our response. However, we attribute the challenge to the fact that councils do not have resources to conduct disaster assessments on time, currently; we are devolving some of our activities to councils to address the challenge. This will see to it that councils get the funding for disaster management.
What are the positive strides DoDMA is making towards the processes of building resilience to disasters?
We are working with various partners to build the resilience of communities to disasters across the country. In partnership with UNDP, under the Small Grants Scheme that provides support to communities to implement disaster risk reduction projects, we are constructing flood mitigation works in Chikwawa and Mangochi as well as safe havens in Mangochi, Nsanje, Karonga and Salima. We will continue with these programmes this year to reach more vulnerable communities. We are implementing a number of flood mitigation works in Nsanje and Chikwawa under the Shire River Basin Management Programme. We are also working with City and Municipal Councils to ensure that we build resilience to disasters in urban areas. We will be supporting them to develop disaster risk management plans, establish civil protection committees and provide support to the cities of Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu to implement small-scale disaster risk reduction interventions.
The Department, in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, is also working on disseminating safer housing and construction guidelines to local artisans and communities. The guidelines were developed in consultation with the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The idea is to have durable and strong houses that can withstand the disasters shocks.
What has the department done or continue doing to assist the affected families?
The Department is coordinating the provision of relief assistance to the affected households. So far, 8, 300 households have been reached with assistance. The Department is making arrangements to provide assistance to the remaining households, as well as those that will be affected.
Each household get a 50kg bag of maize, five plastic cups, 1 pail (20 liters) four plastic plates, in some instances, we provide plastic sheets for temporary roofing.
Share any other relevant information that you wish Malawians to know about DoDMA and its core objectives?
The Department of Disaster Management Affairs is a Malawi Government Agency for coordinating and directing the implementation of disaster risk management programmes. DoDMA works in a system which comprises government entities and humanitarian partners. Much as the Department involves itself in a lot of response programmes, the emphasis is tilting towards building resilience as one way of reducing the impact of disasters.