Centre of the storm
The worst could be yet to come.
I mean, after Tropical Cyclone Freddy, we were told, by those entrusted with the responsibility of saving us from disaster, that it would at least take two years for the country to recover from the natural phenomenon.
And we were told that Malawi could not manage to save herself from the situation alone.
As such, development partners and other well-wishers were asked to come in and help Malawi pull herself out of the disaster.
And, thanks to the Government of Malawi, development partners and other well-wishers, those displaced by the cyclone found some relief.
But, then, there is a lot that needs to be done.
For instance, those still in cyclone survivor camps need materials as they seek to relocate or rebuilt damaged houses and other infrastructure.
But, Dear Pain, just when we thought the worst is behind, President Lazarus Chakwera disclosed that the damage caused by the devastating Tropical Cyclone Freddy is now estimated at over $500 million (about K518 billion).
The Number One Citizen acknowledged that although the government had immediately released K1.6 billion and received additional support from Malawians, neighbouring countries and development partners— who came together to support the Operation Tigwirane Manja initiative— the country still has a shortfall of K107.3 million to address humanitarian needs.
Apparently, the government is eyeing mid- June as the time cyclone camp decommissioning works reach a climax. Already, decommissioning has taken root in camps that were situated in primary schools to pave the way for learners to learn and acquire the knowledge that will put them on a strong footing to achieve their dreams.
The President put the extent of the problem in context: “In economic terms, Cyclone Freddy alone has sunk more workers into unemployment and poverty, increased their food insecurity and malnutrition, and reduced their access to health, education, utility, transport, and sanitation services.”
He further observed that, after the emergency period is over, recovery and reconstruction work will cost an additional K700 billion. Unfortunately, this is no small change and the country simply does not have that.
This is not what natural disasters threaten to do, but what natural disasters have done. For this reason, we cannot afford to respond to the effects of natural disasters on workers as if we are a nation under threat. The only response that is appropriate is that of a nation under attack. We are under such heavy attack that we need reinforcements from other nations in order to not only mobilise the K107.3 million needed to respond to the humanitarian crisis at hand and the K700 billion needed to adequately recover and reconstruct what has been lost, but we also need the support of other nations to better prepare for and mitigate against the next disaster before it comes,” the President emphasised.
He is not far from the truth.
The painful truth is Malawi is in the woods and cannot afford to drag herself out of them.
Not that it does not have the resources; it has the resources but, as Anti- Corruption Bureau Director General Martha Chizuma said the other day, part of budgetary allocations is lost to corruption.
Apart from corruption, there are people who abuse State resources, such that durable things do not last.
As such, instead of investing in new socio-economic programmes, the government is forced to re-invent the wheel.
It is this moving in circles that has put us at the centre of the cyclone storm. After the real cyclone – the natural disaster— passed, we are faced with another storm; namely, that of self-harm through corruption.
If there were no corruption, people would not build houses in undesignated, natural disaster-prone areas. If corruption and dishonesty did not take root in the country, people would not have stolen items meant for cyclone survivors.
In fact, if justice prevailed here, all survivors would have received relief items and other materials by now, and be on the fast way to recovery. But this, Dear Pain, is not the case. That is why we are in the centre of twin storms; natural and man-made.
Only patriotism can take us through this painful process.