Most people living in the floods-prone areas of Chikwawa and Nsanje districts are reluctant to relocate to high grounds because they are afraid of losing their fertile lands because the upper land is not conducive for their subsistence farming.
This was shared by civil society organisation, Centre for Development Communications (CDC) during a media interactive briefing held at at Milestones Lodge at Ngumbe in Blantyre on Thursday of its Response and Recovery Project of six districts.
The project that CDC carried out with flood survivors in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Zomba, Phalombe, Machinga and Mulanje were mostly affected by the recent floods in Malawi through Cyclone Idai.
According to a report done in March by Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA) and the United Nations office of the resident coordinator, the floods in Malawi affected 868,900 people, displacing 86,980 people with 672 injuries, 59 deaths and 3 people missing.
CDC interacted with the displaced people that are sheltered in 173 camps across 15 affected districts.
Other outcomes of the floods included foods shortages, loss of livelihoods, unemployment, homelessness and displacement, disruption to education and health systems, increased risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.
CDC brought one of the victims affected from the disaster, Mary George to testify her families’ experience and trauma they suffered and when asked why they do not heed the call from the government and other stakeholders to consider relocating to higher ground, she said they feel threatened that they might lose their fertile lands because it means joining another chieftaincy’s jurisdiction.
“However, negotiations are underway that we, the community members and our traditional chiefs had with the government that they should first of all assure us that once we move to another traditional leader’s area, then our land we will leave behind should still legally belong to us.
“We would then be visiting our land to do farming because the upper land is not that fertile. That is what we asked and we are yet to get the go ahead to carry out this type of arrangement,” said George, who is still based at Chikuse relief camp site at Nchalo in Chikwawa.
She said there are over 1,700 men, women and children at the camp, and most of their kids are not going to school since of them are used as a relief camp site.
In his presentation, CDC’s head of programmes, Charles Simbi said they first carried out their project — with funding from UN agency, UNICEF — as a disaster response programme to share relevant, action-oriented messages with the affected people so that when disasters strike, people in affected communities should know what actions to take to maintain and protect the health and well-being of all their members including those with disabilities, the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
The project is now at recovery and evaluation level in which its findings revealed that most times when such disasters strike, the government and its stakeholders rush to the affected areas with relief items.
“While some of the items are obvious and most needy, such as food, shelter, water delivery, blankets, we discovered that most of the items provided are not necessarily conducive to certain affected victims.
“What we have come up with are the sort of guidelines to empower the internally displaced people with skills to make duty-bearers responsive, accountable and transparent in the procurement and distribution of supplies and to empower affected communities to participate in the governance of displacement camps so that decisions made are in their best interest,” Simbi said.
This is being done through 13 radio programs that were prepared and recorded with participant groups in flood affected communities in Phalombe, Nsanje, Chikwawa and Phalombe and were distributed to radio stations and radio listening groups.
“The thematic areas and the messages for the radio are based on the harmonised messages matrix being aired at particular time slots on five radio stations — Nyathepa, Ufulu FM, CHANCO FM, YONECO FM and Mzati.
CDC then established 36 radio listening groups in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Phalombe, Zomba and Machinga of 15 heterogeneous members per group, all clubs trained and supplied with rechargeable/battery power/solar radios with USB and memory card slots and all have been supplied with the 13 radio programs.
Simbi said the roles of the radio listening group is to listen to the programmes; discuss its content content; develop and implement the action plans; to monitor implementation of the action plans and evaluate implementation of the actions plans — all of which they are supposed to record in a diary for accountability.
CDC also has road shows in which participants learn about particular behaviours which are demonstrated and the participants are given a chance to practise them.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :