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Climate change whips

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INJURED— A child affected by strong winds

The rainy season could be said to be in the morning of its 2021-22 lifespan. Ironically, the country has already started registering cases of disasters, meaning that the worst is yet to come, with no sign that anyone is preparing for this. RICHARD CHIROMBO, YOHANE SYMON & ELIJAH PHOMPHO write.

Memory Kanguwo, a mother of four from Group Village Head Medramu, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mulilima in Chikwawa District, has been eagerly waiting for the first rains so that she can cultivate sorghum and maize to supplement the 50 kilogramme bag she, until last week, was remaining with.

As one of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) beneficiaries, she was hopeful that she would be one of the people who would achieve household food security status at the end of this year to next year’s agricultural season.

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After all, Chikwawa District Director for Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Donald Ghambi has been atelling all and sundry that his office has finalised all necessary arrangements for crop and livestock farmers to get their share of AIP items. One of the strategies for mobilising farmers, one of them being Kanguwo, has been through the creation of groups.

Over 107,707 farmers are expected to benefit from this year’s cheap inputs in the Shire Valley districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje, out of which 30,000 are expected to receive livestock at affordable prices.

However, even before Kanguwo has laid her hands on the designated inputs, disaster has struck.

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“I am hopeless now. I have lost food items and my house has been damaged,” she said.

She is one of the people that have been rendered hopeless after a spate of heavy winds in the district, in line with Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services’ forecast, in its weekly weather update for November 15 to 21, that strong winds are expected to continue in most parts of the country.

Chikwawa District, along with Nsanje District, are known for the perennial problem of floods.

According to Chikwawa District Civil Protection Committee members, about 654 households, an average of over 3,000 people, are the ones that have been negatively affected by natural phenomena.

Its report indicates that there are 654 affected households, 258 houses have been completely destroyed while 396 people have had their roofs blown off in T/ As Mulilima, Katunga, Kasisi, Masache, Ngabu and Chapanga in the district.

According to the report, this is due to stormy rains that hit the district over the weekend, blowing off rooftops at Mikolongo Primary School in T/A Mulilima as well as Kubalalika Primary School and Majete 1 Health Centre in T/A Chapananga, where the delivery of public services has been disrupted .

Kanguwo is, therefore, not the only one affected.

“Affected people are in need of food, shelter, clothes and utensils as well as some sort of cash transfer for them to recover from the natural calamity,” said Chikwawa District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Hamphrey Magalasi.

“The stormy rains have affected about 654 households in about six traditional authorities in our district. The area of Traditional Authority Mulilima has been heavily affected as about 358 households have been affected. The affected people are being hosted by close friends and relatives while others are sleeping outside and are in urgent need of relief items,” he added.

In Machinga District, strong winds have already claimed a life in the past six days.

Fifty-two-year-old Abiti Mirriam, a mother of six who has been rendered homeless, says she is surviving on mangoes, having lost all her food items.

“I am lucky to have walked out of my house just as the roof was collapsing. It would have been worse than being rendered homeless,” she said.

According to Machinga District Commissioner Rosemary Nawasha, the winds that blew in the area were so strong that they killed a six-year-old boy.

“The boy died after the wall of a house he was sleeping in collapsed on him,” she says.

“We have been experiencing strong winds in the district in the past three days. A lot of houses have been affected, especially in traditional authorities Mlomba, Nkoola and Kapoloma. People from over 61 households have been rendered homeless following the damage caused by strong winds,” she added

The Department of Disaster Management Affairs has, on its Facebook page, acknowledged that some areas of the country have been affected by disaster.

It indicates that it has reached out to some of them, with others yet to be visited.

Natural Resources Minister Nancy Tembo indicated, at the Conference of Parties (CoP)26 in Glasgow, Scotland, last week that Malawi was bearing the brunt of climate change, citing frequent occurrences of floods, strong winds and hailstorms.

In fact, the World Bank lists Malawi among the to 10 countries highly affected by climate change.

“We have to start addressing climate change-related challenges now,” she said.

At the CoP26 meeting, President Lazarus Chakwera, who is Southern African Development Community Chairperson and leader of Least Developed Countries, asked resource-rich countries to pay up for the pollution mess they have created in countries such as Malawi.

He said doing so was not negotiable.

A Malawi 2019 Floods Post Disaster Needs Assessment Report indicates that “Malawi is highly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events given its location along the great African Rift Valley, rapid population growth, unsustainable urbanisation, climate variability and change, and environmental degradation. The most common weather-related shocks affecting Malawi include floods, drought, stormy rains and hailstorms. Over the past five decades, Malawi has experienced more than 19 major floods and seven droughts, with these events increasing in frequency, magnitude and scope over the years.

“In early March 2019, heavy rains developed from Tropical Depression 11 that formed offshore central Mozambique. Heavy rains hit Malawi, causing severe flooding in the Southern and, to a lesser extent, Central Region of the country. These disaster events have had a significant impact on people’s lives, livelihoods and socio-economic infrastructure in the affected areas, pushing a large number of people into poverty and food insecurity”.

As such, without taking remedial action, Malawians could be at the mercy of natural disaster.

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