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After floods, Phalombe households find relief

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At the height of the floods that battered the country early this year, Phalombe was one of the districts that were brought down to their knees.

Thousands of households and thousands of acres of crop fields were affected, raising the spectre of chronic food shortage.

But 10 months today and a few weeks before rains begin, the situation may not be as desperate for many households in the district, thanks to an intervention by the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (Cadecom).

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In response to the floods, Cadecom embarked on a six-month Central Emergency Relief Fund (Cerf) with funding from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES).

Cerf coordinator in Phalombe, Charles Namikalo, says the project which ends this month was aimed at ensuring food availability and access by 5,000 vulnerable households in the district.

Under the project, households received farm inputs such as fertilisers, maize and vegetable seeds for irrigation farming.

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The project also distributed 965 goats to 965 households and 285 more goats are to be supplied before the end of the project.

Winess Bisani, Secretary for Mleka Irrigation Scheme in the area of Traditional Authority Nazombe, says the interventions have tremendously reduced impacts of the floods that hit the district.

He also says the project has equipped them with knowledge and skills which they can apply in their daily lives and be able to avert some disaster related risks.

Bisani is one of the 106 members of the scheme which is making use of 10-hectare piece of land.

Another member, Modester Elia, suggests that life would have been a struggle for her family of 10 members had Cadecom not brought in the project.

A mother of eight children, Elia says she and her husband have been able to pay school fees for their three children who are in secondary schools, courtesy of the money they have realised from sales of produce in their irrigation scheme.

National Programmes Coordinator for Cadecom, Yusuf Mkungula, attributes the success of the project in part to the hardworking spirit of the beneficiary communities which he says has enabled the project to achieve its objectives.

Yet, that is not to say the disasters will never hit again.

That is because Malawi regularly suffers of natural disasters and is particularly vulnerable to drought and floods.

According to the World Bank, on average, about 26,000 people are affected by floods in Malawi every single year.

The Bretton Woods institution says on average, the floods reduce the national gross domestic product (GDP) by about 1.7 per cent annually.

In the aftermath of the floods of early January, government released the Malawi 2015 Floods Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report which detailed the chilling impacts of the floods.

According to the report, the floods exacted damages and losses estimated at K145 billion (US$335million).

It estimates the cost of reconstruction needs to be over K215 billion (US$494 million).

According to the report, the housing sector suffered the highest damage calculated at K 59.3 billion (US$ 136.4 million).

The damage for the agriculture sector is calculated at the cost K 23.7 billion (US$ 54.4 million) while losses in the transport and water and sanitation sectors are pegged at K21.9 billion (US$ 50.4 million) and K 8.2 billion (US$18.9 million).

The floods affected 1,101,364 people, displaced 230,000 household and killed 106 people with another 172 people reported missing, according to the report.

Of the 15 districts that were hit, four of them have poverty incidences ranging between 55 and 80 percent, above the national average of 50.7 percent, according to the report.

And the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) admitted soon after the launch of the report in May that there was still “a huge gap” in the status of financing to address all the recovery and reconstruction needs specified in the report.

Director at Dodma, James Chiusiwa, was quoted in the media then as saying the formal release of the report would be followed by the development of what he called a comprehensive recovery framework.

“Dodma has already started the process of engaging development partners and all stakeholders to develop the recovery framework.

“The process includes building on the findings of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) by further refining, quantifying and aligning recovery activities to ongoing development effort,” he said.

Government will use that framework to formally mobilise and coordinate resource allocations for the unfunded recovery interventions, he said.

Launching the report, President Peter Mutharika admitted that recovery and reconstruction in the flood affected districts would not be an easy task.

“Thousands of livestock were killed, hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops were washed away and hundreds of houses were either destroyed or badly damaged.

The floods also destroyed our infrastructure such as roads, bridges, school classrooms and health facilities.

“Restoring these services and assets will not be easy. I, therefore, call upon all of us to join hands and act with unity of purpose as a nation to restore these services and assets,” he said.

Ten months on, it is a fact that the road to full recovery is not even half done.

But efforts such as Cadecom’s are providing such a relief to some.

Through the commission’s interventions, the victims of the January floods in Phalombe are well on the road to recovery.

But it goes without saying that many more in other parts of the country need such a response, especially now as the rainy season approaches, raising the risk of yet another battering by floods.

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