This year, there are indications that Malawi will yet again experience heavy rains during the 2015/2016 rainy season. Some disaster prone areas are likely to experience extreme events such as floods and prolonged dry spells.
Heavy rains last year and early this year led to severe flooding in some of the country’s districts. The southern districts of Nsanje, Chikhwawa, Phalombe and Zomba were the most affected. An estimated 22 000 or more households were displaced and some people lost their lives. The floods caused extensive damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure.
Government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and faith-based organisations developed various programmes to help the flood victims. Temporary shelters, food, water; clothes and dignity kits for women and girls were distributed among the victims, mostly those that were living in easy access areas.
Recent weather forecasts that have predicted heavy rains in the coming seasons make me question if there are plans to reduce the level of damage that we had last year. Have adequate finances and personnel been set aside for this activity?
Natural disasters do not only cause physical damage to infrastructure, but also psychological damage to the residents of the areas that were hit by the floods. People lost their relations, some even witnessing their loved ones being washed away but the running waters. They witnessed their loved ones gasp for air as they were calling for help and no one could rescue them. That is the last picture that people have of their loved ones in Nsanje, Chikhwawa, Phalombe and Zomba.
Apart from providing supplies to floods stricken communities, has there been any efforts to provide psychological counselling to the flood victims?
Natural disasters can evoke intense feelings of shock and distress and the effects can last for years if no counselling is provided.
It is understandable that last year the components of post-traumatic stress and grief may not have been taken into consideration for one reason or another which may have made us focus on the immediate needs of the victims in our response.
We now have prior warning of what is to come, and we have a good Disaster Risk Management Policy that should help us plan and respond and respond better than we did last year.
The author is a scholar at University of Sussex, in Brighton, UK.