Malawi Department of Disaster outlines La Nina preparedness efforts

Once beaten twice shy, is the hard lesson learnt from 2013 devastating floods that wrecked havoc in over 15 districts across Malawi and now the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) says it has taken up a number of measures in preparedness of the La Nina outcome, especially floods.

UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Mia Seppo helping Dodma
UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Mia Seppo helping Dodma

According to available statistics more than 100 people died while an additional 200,000 were displaced. The southern region districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje were the worst affected.

Meanwhile, seasonal forecast issued by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Department as part of the early warning systems, predict that while the country experienced El Nino the past season. This year La Nina phenomenal that is characterized by more rains linked to disasters such as flooding and torrential rains will hover over the country.

Dodma with support from UNDP organized training in the commercial city of Blantyre  for members of the Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) in Blantyre to capacitate media practitioners on issues of early warning systems and disaster risk reduction in the wake of reports of La Nina.

During the two day training, journalists were taken through various topical issues such Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction including the progress on the implementation of national disaster risk management policy and preparedness efforts in view of the anticipated La Nina.

Sendai Framework was adopted by United Nations member states on the 18th of March 2015 at the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Sendai City in Japan.

The framework is a 15 year, voluntary, non binding agreement which recognizes that countries have the primary role to reduce disaster risk. The framework also highlights that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local governments, private sector and other players to ensure holistic approach to curb disasters.

It further recognizes the fact that substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health in the economic, physical, social cultural and environmental assets of persons, business, communities and countries.

In order to ensure livelihoods remain resilient despite the predicted more rains as a result of La Nina, Dodma is implementing disaster risk reduction programmes initiative aimed at equipping communities with flood control interventions, as well as responsive mechanism to other unpredictable natural events.

Dodma partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (Undp) through the Small Grants Scheme to ensure sustained resilience building as part of adaptation and mitigation for communities, initially hard hit by natural disasters.

Principal Mitigation Officer for Dodma, Veronica Mhango confirmed dykes and weir have been constructed in flood prone areas to divert water from human habitation in order to safeguard lives and agricultural fields to ensure food secure communities.

Mhango said the department has set up emergency operation centres in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre to coordinate disaster response better and it is also currently finalising the review of the National Contingency Plan which will help Dodma to respond as soon as disaster strikes.

Said Mhango: “We have also prepositioned stocks [food and non-food items] in our regional warehouses to enable us respond in good time, ideally within 48 hours. We have also prepositioned search and rescue teams in Nsanje, Chikwawa and Phalombe which are hot spots for flooding. Search and rescue teams are important when it comes to rescuing people during flooding.”

“Our major goal is to strengthen institutional capacity of disaster risk management by supporting community level interventions aimed at enhancing resilience of communities to disasters, through a risk reduction small grants scheme (DRR-SGS). Guidelines to the scheme were developed that stipulate, among others, types of projects that can be funded and the selection process,” she elaborated.

One of the community members that are beneficiaries of this resilience building programme in Phalombe, Thomas Sipuni told Nyasa Times in an interview that they have already witnessed the importance of the dyke, as a flood control and preventative measure.

Assistant District Disaster Risk Management Officer in Phalombe, Davie Chibani when asked to comment on the intervention as risk reduction mechanism observed that, dykes are indeed important because they help to control speed and flow of swelling waters from affecting human habitation.

Chibani further added that swelling waters are destructive to houses, gardens and livestock rendering people homeless in the process.

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