Nsanje and Chikwawa Socio-Economic Development Trust urges government to prioritize rehabilitation of destroyed road network

Efforts by Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS), Malawi Relief Fund-UK, Gift of the Givers and other agencies — to reach out to the needs of flood victims in Chikwawa and Nsanje — are being hampered by the destroyed road network.

This has been observed by Nsanje and Chikwawa Socio-Economic Development Trust (NECK) and Mgumano wa Asena na Amang`anja — saying this is an area that government should prioritize to access people that deserve attention arising from the disaster.

In its statement to DoDMA Commissioner and the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), the Mgumano also seems to reproach the Malawi government that it failed to act as quickly as it should soon after the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) forecasted the impending Tropical Cyclone days before it actually happened.

“The Malawi Government responds to disasters through DODMA and for this cyclone DCCMS forecasted its emergence which suggested the need for preparedness given that the two districts are known to be prone to disasters,” says the statement.

The impending floods were well warned off on Saturday by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services which reported that there was a Tropical Depression which was an initial stage in the development of a Tropical Cyclone — now named Cyclone Ana — that has developed in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar on Friday, January 21.

The Department reported that as of Saturday, January 22 at 10:00 local time, the Tropical Depression was located over Madagascar Island and was moving at a speed of 37km per hour.

The depression entered the Mozambique Channel by midnight of Sunday January 23 where it continued moving towards Mozambique coast and as according computer readings of the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services the shortest distance along the track to Malawi was expected to be almost 500km.

Thus the Department warned in advance that given the recent heavy rains and flash flooding in the Southern Region, this tropical system could renew flash flooding or lead to new flooding concerns across the region.

The NECK and Mgumano quotes DoDMA statistics that Nsanje and Chikwawa remain the worst hit districts with Nsanje having 15,421 households affected in 8 traditional authorities while Chikwawa has 10,159 households in 7 T/As being heavily affected as of Sunday January 30.

According to DODMA and district level assessments, the major challenges while efforts are being done include:

* Cut off of roads and rail network that have become impassable for vehicles and locomotives carrying both food and non-food items and for sending referral patients to district hospitals or Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital;

* Not well organized camps making it difficult to support the displaced people;

* Disruption of social services (schools, health facilities, markets)

* Loss of electricity power supply leading to, among other, things: failure to operate water treatment and distribution systems, adversely affecting hospital operations, telecommunications;

* Lack of key stocks, like fuel to run diesel/petrol powered milling facilities. This has increased costs of living amidst limited or no support; and

* Missing cluster data and segregation as a result of limited coordination, mobility, weak search and rescue services.

Critical needs not adequately met from various assessments include:

  • Food and non-food items;
  • WASH services;
  • Shelter needs;
  • Protection services;
  • Health services — mobile clinics, transport and medical supplies.
  • Search and rescue services — as still some of the people are missing and some children are found having been separated from their parents;
  • Transport, logistics, coordination services- as the districts are overwhelmed.
  • Nutrition needs and agriculture needs — to allow people replant;
  • Education materials and support.

“Currently we know the districts are overwhelmed and central government support is not coming with the urgency that a disaster such as this one would need to be treated.

“DODMA reports acknowledge that the two district councils have no capacity to get enough data due to the overwhelming magnitude of the disaster and that there are inadequate human and financial resources to provide the needed support.”

The NECK and Mgumano further states that the districts’ key concerns are:

  • Why is the government through DODMA at the OPC not acting in a manner deserving of this unprecedented emergency?
  • Why are assessments/visits being made over and over again when people are dying and essential needs in camps and hospitals are not there?
  • Why is the government not deploying resources and rendering the needed logistics with the urgency required for a disaster, even if it means appealing for support from the neighboring countries in form of cargo helicopters, search and rescue support and anything that would make the people of Nsanje and Chikwawa know that their government is caring for them?
  • It should be noted that the effects of the cyclone and the floods the people suffer every year are not of their own making. They, we opine, arise from systemic failure on the part of government to address the medium to long term root causes.
  • Why is it that NGOs and other stakeholders are the most visible in the districts when government has DODMA — especially when the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services had warned the country of the cyclone?
  • What happened to preparedness from government on matters of disasters when national budget allocations to DODMA are there or should be there to support expenditures in such situations?

“The death toll and the number of missing people reported are a concern to people of the districts. The situation gives the appearance of a government that is somehow overwhelmed and has chosen to leave the people of Nsanje and Chikwawa to suffer on their own.

“This is coming from the observation on the apparent lack of speed and urgency in the response.”

The NECK and Mgumano thus calls upon government to:

1. Deploy the relevant support teams to the districts to support the councils;

2. Urgently provide food to the displaced people in the camps;

3. Speedily address the infrastructure challenge — roads and bridges;

4. Provide security in all camps, churches, schools that are hosting victims;

5. Plan to address the effects of the post disaster in order to mitigate other disasters like Cholera among others.

“We look forward to the above appeals being addressed in the shortest number of days possible in this week. This is would go a long way in restoring the confidence the people of the two districts should have in their government.

“We also appeal that in the long term, the government needs to look at various recommendations and assessments made before and begin or accelerate efforts to address the major issues that predispose the people of the Shire Valley districts of Malawi to perennial floods and other disasters.

“We remain open to engaging the government and we look forward to a positive feedback from OPC on this appeal. The people of NECK are full and bonafide Malawians and, like all other citizens, are deserving of equal support.

“NECK and Mgumano, as registered entities, are representing concerned citizens of the Shire Valley. NECK focuses its attention on social and economic development interests of the people of Nsanje and Chikwawa.

“By contrast, Mgumano is a social and cultural group of the peoples of Nsanje and Chikwawa and those with roots and background of the two districts but are residing all over Malawi and beyond.

The statement was issued by chairpersons of the two entities Dr. Christopher W. Guta and Dr. Anthony Malunga — copied to Nsanje and Chikwawa District Commissioners, Members of Parliament for the NECK districts and Mgumano Patrons, Paramount Chief Lundu and Senior Malemia.

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