Cost of nursing Freddy wounds
In Malawi, where climate change-induced shocks top the list of risks, level of economic fragility is noticeable.
The harsh weather conditions—which swing from a year of drought to another with flooding— continue to degrade the arable land, making things more volatile for the agrarian economy.
Over 72 hours of non-stop rains and heavy winds emanating from the landing of Cyclone Freddy the land-locked Malawi caused floods and mudslides.
The cyclone damaged power lines, roads and farmlands and livestock in about 10 districts of the Southern Region.
According to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), at least 676 people have died—a figure likely to rise—while about 65,278 people were left destitute or displaced in 747 camps.
Rebuilding will be costly as the United Nations (UN) and other humanitarian partners in Malawi are calling for $115.9 million (about K120 billion) support to be used for assisting community members.
According to the UN, $70.6 million would be used to assist 1.1 million people affected by the cyclone, while $45.3 million would be used for cholera response.
Like in many other countries, climate change is pushing many Malawians in the abyss of poverty. The country is susceptible to more shocks ahead.
In its recent Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) for Malawi, the World Bank hinted that climate change will make it harder for Malawi to achieve its ambitious development goals— unless it accelerates policies and programs, as intended in the Malawi 2063, and supplements this effort with additional investment in adaptation.
Without the necessary investments and intervention, climate change could reduce the GDP [gross domestic product] rate by three to nine percent by 2030, six to 20 percent by 2040, and eight to16 percent by 2050.
Due to the compounding effects of drought and floods, the country is losing about 1.7 percent of its GDP, or $22 million, on average a year.
According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, between 1967 and 2003, Malawi experienced six major droughts and 18 incidences of flooding, which heavily impacted smallholder farmers.
Droughts in 2011- 2012 had severe effects on food security in many districts, with approximately two million people affected – particularly in the Southern Region.
The country has also only just recovered from extensive flooding that took place in 2015 and left many lives and livelihoods destroyed; it is estimated that 1,101,364 people were affected, with 230,000 displaced and 106 killed.
In 2016, drought conditions occurred due to the strong El Nino. This resulted in extensive crop failures, affecting 2.8 million people.
If historical trends are anything to go by, we should expect the country to remain susceptible to more shocks ahead.
Beyond restoring the lost glory of nature, conversation surrounding climate change should now start tilting towards building resilience in the form of preparedness and response.
Questions should not only revolve how, as a country, we are going to rebuild from harsh effects of Cyclone Freddy.
More importantly, Malawi should move towards shaping its future by putting enough resources towards preparedness and response.
Already, the local economy is faced with myriad other structural challenges which intensifies the threat. They include a weak fiscal environment leading to a wide deficit as national budgets are characterised by expenditure overruns and revenue shortfalls.
But the gravity of the climate change effects can erode all we tout to have built if a necessary hedge is not put across.