After suffering from the ravages of El Nino in the 2015/16 rainy season, Malawi is again at risk from another weather phenomenon, La Nina in the 2016/17 rainy season which threatens to destroy the country’s investments such as infrastructure, warns the UN University World Risk Report 2016 released last month.
While El Nino brought drought that reduced food production in the country by 39 percent, rendering 6.5 million people hungry, La Nina is expected to bring heavy flooding, which threatens to destroy investments such as infrastructure the country has made as a response to El Nino, according to an environmental expert.
Meanwhile, the UN representative in Malawi Mia Seppo said in an e-mail response on Thursday that the United Nations (UN) encourages Malawi to step up its preparedness to confront risks posed by La Niña.
Said Seppo : “Contingency plans in flood-prone districts need to be updated, simulation exercises need to be launched with all stakeholders, d i s t r i c t e m e r g e n c y operation centres need to be fully equipped with trained personnel, and communities need to be empowered with the knowhow and information they need to prepare for and cope with flood risks.
“Most importantly, the scale of the risk needs to be matched by the urgency of our collective action. By pulling all stakeholders together under a common framework for action, Malawi can better prepare for the rainy season ahead.”
Seppo said the double disaster of erratic rains and then floods, which led into droughts, is stretching the capacity of Malawi to mount a comprehensive national response.
“Simply put, the scale of the crisis unfolding in Malawi and across southern African countries is challenging the ability of governments and communities to cope,” she said.
The UN chief in Malawi said regional susceptibility to weather extremes, be it dry spells or violent flood s , a l s o p l a c e s Malawi on the frontline of countries needing to lessen the vulnerability of their communities and strengthen national resilience.
Said Seppo: “To this end, the work of Malawi’s National Resilience Plan is welcome and will pave the way to build a more climate-resilient nation. We know that the impact, frequency and scope of climate-related disasters in Malawi have intensified in the past two decades and are likely to worsen with climate change. We know that the most affected are the poorest and jobless; they will end up selling what little they possess.”
She also said El Niño continues to have devastating effects on Malawi, and La Niña is expected to bring much cooler and wetter conditions in southern Africa, raising the risk of floods.
As outlined in the 2016 World Risk Report released last week by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, a focus on climateresilient infrastructure has to be part of the solution.
Seppo said the UN continues to work with government partners in Malawi to help communities build back better after the 2015 floods.
“For example, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting Malawi’s Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services to improve its early warning systems, including gathering a vast body of information such as temperature, rainfall, wind, soil moisture, as well as maps, risk vulnerability analyses and long term projections, to put this information in the hands of Malawians so they can take
steps to prepare for adverse weather events like La Niña,” she said.
An environmental expert, Vitumbiko Chinoko, from Care International said in an interview on Wednesday the warning from the report should spur government, non- State actors and development partners into serious preparedness mode.
“We know early action is cheaper, so El Nino responses must be incorporated into La Nina response and recovery,” he said.
He added that it is important to reflect on the report on the fact that the 2016/17 farming season will be a La Nina year.
But secretary for Disaster and Preparedness Ben Botolo played down the report, saying as a department, they will wait for the Malawi Meteorological Services to give them the weather outlook for this year.
“It is not the first time for such disasters to occur. If La Nina comes, we are ready to inform people in all the areas that are prone to disasters,” he said.