Malawi government has denied that it was caught off-guard by the floods as the agro-based economy, which had recently started showing some signs of stability, is now in reverse gear.
Paul Chiunguzeni, the head of Malawi’s department of disaster and relief, rejected accusations that the country was ill-prepared, saying that it “had mixed success with the relief efforts because, in the early days of the disaster, rescue efforts were hampered by bad weather”.
He told Al Jazeera that Malawi “did not have the resources” to handle the aftermath of the massive floods.
Malawi is already in dire financial straits after aid donors withdrew 40% of their funding in 2013 because of a corruption scandal called ‘cashgate’ in the media.
Large areas in the south of the country are under water, and homes, crops and livestock have been washed away. President Peter Mutharika has declared 15 of the 28 national districts disaster zones.
The longer-term damage to Malawi’s agro-based economy, with agriculture accounting for more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP, has been immense.
With the country’s main crops, such as tobacco and maize, damaged by flooding, the economic outlook does not look good.
According to Malawi’s department of surveys, more than 63000 hectares have been submerged by floodwaters and about 120 000 farmers have been affected, which amounts to 40000 hectares of cropland.
“This represents an expected food production loss of over 48 000 metric tonnes,” the report says. It says 221 schools have been hit by the floods.
Efforts are being made to establish temporary learning facilities for 154700 pupils and to provide them with food and clean water and sanitation services to prevent cholera outbreaks.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Reserve Bank of Malawi and the treasury had earlier forecast that the domestic economy would attain a high growth rate in 2015.
The IMF had projected that in 2015, Malawi would attain real GDP growth of 5.8 percent.
The government, according to a 2014 economic report, is also upbeat about the this year’s economic growth rate on account of higher crop production levels, the stability of the exchange rate, and the deceleration of the inflation rate.
But indications on the ground point to a different situation.
“The economy will be badly affected, but this is a situation that could not be avoided,” State Vice President Saulos Chilima told a news conference in Blantyre at which he updated the country on relief efforts. “It is a disaster.”
He insisted that initial assessments of the damage were merely estimates.
“There is a huge cost attached to this crisis… the devastation can be seen by all of us. The picture is mucky,” Chilima lamented.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza, meanwhile, warned that millions of Malawians were at risk of food shortage this year.
“We are encouraging farmers to replant crops with early maturity to at least harvest some food this year,” Chiyembekeza is quoted by Anadolu Agency (AA).
Economist and banker Thom Mpinganjira is also quoted saying that if maize is in short supply next year, it will induce “demand-pull inflation, a type of inflation arising from a situation where more people have more money to spend on goods that are in short supply on the market.”
Meanwhile, frequent and, in some instances, prolonged emergency load shedding is paralyzing the manufacturing sector.
Since the onset of the rains, large amounts of debris and trash have been washed down the Shire River, clogging intake screens in the process, according to the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM).
They are not generating any power from Nkula A and B, because machines and the entry point are all clogged with silt, trash and logs, so no water is entering the machine.
According to ESCOM CEO John Kandulu Malawi has lost 124 megawatts [about 35 percent] due to the floods.
Malawi’s road network is also in bad shape.—(Additional reporting by Rex Chikoko, Mal and Guardian and AA )Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :