Malawi in a state of disaster

INCESSANT rains have caused flash floods in Malawi leaving 45 people dead, 577 injured two missing and displacing 147,958 households representing 739,790 people, the Department of Disaster Management (Dodma) in Malawi’s Ministry of Homeland Security has announced.

President Peter Mutharika declared a state of national disaster in the 14 affected districts across Malawi and appealed for assistance from well-wishers. Mutharika has already visited some of the affected districts to cheer and offer support to the victims.

Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi disclosed in a statement that, ‘in the meantime the Department (Dodma) has deployed search and rescue teams in collaboration with the Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service and Malawi Red Cross and affected district councils’.

‘The Department has also deployed 23 trucks of relief items to be distributed in the affected districts. They include tents, plastic sheets, maize, rice, beans, blankets and kitchen utensils,’ Dausi said.

An inter-agency assessment team comprising various multi-sectoral stakeholders such as government, development and humanitarian partners is being deployed to assist district councils with assessment.

Getting to the affected areas will not be easy as Roads Authority (RA) confirmed bridges and roads have been destroyed on major and feeder roads have been destroyed.

‘It’s true that floods have destroyed the road infrastructure and bridges in many areas. We will have a clear picture of the situation when the waters levels go down,’ said Portia Kajanga, RA public relations officer.

The Lower Shire Valley, in southern Malawi, has been adversely affected. The Shire River, the only outlet of Lake Malawi burst its banks in the districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje washing away crops, destroying houses, property and livestock.

Nsanje district commissioner Reinghard Kaweta said there are 21 camps accommodating 16,100 people who have been displaced by floods in the district.

Kaweta said the affected people need urgent medical help ‘because
their hospital stands in water.’

Government has already ferried food and non-food items to flood victims. Dodma principle secretary and commissioner Wilson Moleni said the challenge is to reach communities that have been trapped in the Shire River.

‘The challenge is to reach to the people who are still trapped. We are working hand in hand with the Malawi Defence Force and we are managing to reach out to some of the people using choppers. We are also using boat to transport relief items,’ Moleni said.

The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has warned of another heavy downpour in southern Malawi due to development of Tropical Cyclone Idai in the Mozambique Channel.

A statement from the department says: ‘A deep and wide low pressure system in the Mozambique Channel developed into a Tropical Cyclone named “Idai” on 11 March 2019 at a distance of 900 kilometres from southern Malawi border in Nsanje at position 17.4 degrees  South and 43.2 degrees East approximately west-north of Madagascar.’

It adds that the cyclone is expected to make a landfall over Beira in Mozambique, 480 kilometres to Nsanje in Malawi this week, while dumping heavy rains over land in Mozambique and southern Malawi.

In 2015 Malawi experienced one of the worst floods with over 15 districts affected. The devastating floods affected water and electricity supply, damaging roads infrastructure, crops and property. Over 1 million people were affected, 230,000 displaced, 106 killed and
172 missing.

At the time Malawi needed $494 million for recovery and reconstruction.


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