Since January 24, whirlwinds freely whistle past rubble in Kaseche Village, Traditional Authority Lundu in Chikwawa.
Four months ago, devastating floods reduced the hive of activity to debris, leaving just six out 600 houses standing but in ruins.
Here, a sense of emptiness, loss and grief easily gets intertwined when the locals start sharing flashbacks of the devastating floods of January 12 and 24 that washed away their homes and four people, who are feared dead.
“Floods didn’t start causing displacement yesterday,” says Sarah Bakali, 31, at Kaseche Camp across Mwanza River where almost 3 000 homeless villagers have taken shelter.
The woman’s four-year-old child was washed away by a furious flood as they fled to the overcrowded camp.
Bakali narrates: “Some houses were destroyed by floods in 2015 and even more in 2019, but the damage was nothing compared to the disaster seen in January alone.
“Instead of counting the homes destroyed, we were counting those that were still standing, albeit heavily battered.”
In recent years, Malawi has been experiencing more frequent and intense flooding, droughts, strong winds and other extreme weather conditions which endanger communities, agricultural activities and economic infrastructures.
According to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), the 2015 floods affected over one million people, killing over 100 and displacing some 300 000.
Similarly, Cyclone Idai in 2019 affected more than 865 000 people, with at least 86 980 displaced, 59 deaths and 672 injuries.
While the affected communities were still reeling from drought and the impact of Cyclone Idai on their livelihoods, on January 24 2022, Tropical Storm Ana struck the Southern Region on the way from Madagascar via Mozambique.
According to Dodma, the high winds and torrential rains that persisted for three days killed at least 80 people across the borders, with about 40 deaths and 158 injuries recorded in Malawi, especially in Chikwawa District.
The latest situation report from Dodma shows that more than 945 727 people have been affected by Tropical Cyclone Ana, including close to 100 000 displaced.
While the ongoing efforts are focusing on immediate needs in affected communities, the current situation calls for more investments that will ensure long-lasting impact to minimise the effects of future floods.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Malawi is currently working with the government through Dodma to provide technical assistance to help strengthen the coordination efforts and ensure that there are robust recovery mechanisms in place.
To help reduce the threats posed by climate change and natural disasters, UNDP Malawi continues to work alongside the government and other national and local structures, to help build capacity of key actors to improve early warnings and climate information, to enhance the resilience of affected communities.
In its disaster risk management work, UNDP Malawi has invested a complementary $10 million to promote the resilience of communities. This includes the construction of evacuation centres and developing information management systems and mechanisms aimed at strengthening the humanitarian coordination for timely response to the affected populations.
UNDP has also invested in the inclusive recovery project, with financial support from the governments of Japan and the People’s Republic of China.
The project aims at preventing the affected communities from slipping back to extreme vulnerability and to strengthen their resilience by building back better.
Through this project, UNDP has constructed 400 climate resilient houses, rehabilitated damaged infrastructure and provided training to various players on how to build back better.
With support from Green Climate Fund, UNDP Malawi also invested in $16 million to help scale up the use of modernised early warning systems and climate information, with lifesaving early warnings, and dissemination of valuable climate information to help save lives, protect livelihoods, and inform decision-making on development plans.
In his remarks, the UNDP resident representative Shigeki Komatsubara said: “Our goal is to have permanent and sustainable solutions that address the threats posed by natural disasters like Tropical Storm Ana.
“We are therefore calling for more players and donors to invest in sustainable solutions in addressing natural disasters that help us protect the significant development gains already made so far.”
With more than half of the 28 districts in Malawi deemed disaster-prone, working to address the challenges that are inflated by a lack of preparedness, recovery capacity, limited early warning systems and the effects of climate change, is, therefore, key.—UNDP Malawi
Extra reporting by JAMES CHAVULA, The Nation