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Floods raise food insecurity fears

CONCERNED—Chimulirenji (right) visits Chipasula flood affected area

Some stakeholders in the country have expressed fear that the prolonged heavy rainfall which is causing floods in some parts and the reported Fall Armyworms attack may lead to food insecurity.

However, Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Ministry has, despite the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (Met) issuing a fresh warning of more floods due to heavy rainfall, insisted that it is too early to press the panic button over food insecurity.

Red Cross Malawi Communications Manager, Felix Washon, Sunday said in most parts where the organisation is assisting victims of floods, maize fields have been washed away, raising doubt if people will yield enough for consumption.

“I may not say much about food security. Let us leave that to our colleagues in the agriculture sector but it is, indeed, a cause for worry since fields are being washed away and people may not harvest enough. We have learnt with regret reports of the armyworms which will definitely affect crop yields,” he said.

Washon, however, assured that Red Cross has activated its National Disaster Response Team and Search and Rescue Regime as they continue to respond and assess the situation on the ground.

But reacting to the fears, Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development spokesperson, Priscilla Mateyu, said it was too early to anticipate food insecurity resulting from the floods or the reported Fall Armyworms.

“It is too early to project any worst scenario. It is just the beginning of the farming season, things can get better and farmers who will be affected by the two natural occurrences can get other seeds and replant and still be food secure,” Mateyu said.

Meanwhile, some city councils have said they are alert for any natural disasters saying they have intensified simulation and preparedness activities with stakeholders.

Mzuzu City Council spokesperson, MacDonald Gondwe, said through civil protection committees, they were sensitising people in disaster prone townships such as Masasa to voluntarily relocate before disaster strikes.

“We are prepared and stakeholders are coorperating and they have briefed us on what they are offering in case of any eventuality. In terms of relief items, we have leftovers from the last disaster, but we always write Dodma [Department of Disaster Management Affairs] when need arises,” he said.

On Saturday, Met warned of more floods due to heavy rainfall, days before over 1,500 people were affected by floods that hit some parts of Lilongwe such as Kaliyeka, Mgona, Area 25 and Ngomano last week.

In a statement, Met Director, Jolamu Nkhokwe, cautioned that most parts of the country should brace for another wave of heavy downpours with consequent floods resulting from a deep low pressure in association with an active Inter- Tropical Convergence Zone.

The condition, according to the statement, is expected to persist over most areas in Central and Southern regions, and also lakeshore areas from January 5 to 9 2020 with high likelihood of loss and damage to property.

Southern Africa Development Corporation Climate Services Centre recently also forecast an occurrence of heavy rainfall of up to 54 millimetres in southern African countries including Malawi.

“The heavy rains are expected to be associated with strong winds, lightning and trigger floods in low-lying and flood prone areas. Due to already very heavy rainfall amounts that the country has already been receiving and has caused flooding in some areas of the centre and lakeshore areas during the past days causing loss and damages to property,” the statement reads.

The statement has further cautioned that the rains will be accompanied by strong winds and lightning which are expected to increase coverage.

Met has since asked the public to take precautionary measures such as moving to higher grounds in the wake of rising water levels, avoid crossing rivers and refraining from seeking shelter under trees and weak infrastructure when the weather conditions in question set in.

Prior to the statement on Saturday, Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji, who is also Minister responsible for Disaster Management Affairs, when he visited disaster stricken households at Chipasula and Area 22 in Lilongwe, expressed dismay at people’s adamancy to relocate to uplands.

“As [the] government, we remain committed to assisting affected people, but above all it is the wish of the government to see those living in flood prone areas moving to safer places,” he said.

Chimulirenji also revealed that disasters especially hailstorms, rains and lightning, had affected people in 19 districts that include Dedza, Dowa, Lilongwe, Machinga, Mulanje, Mwanza, Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Ntcheu and Phalombe.

Last week, Dodma Deputy Director, Dyce Nkhoma, disclosed that the government had released K1.2 billion for provision of humanitarian aid to natural disasters’ victims during the rainy season.

The devastating heavy floods have led to the increase of silt and debris in Lilongwe River with Lilongwe Water Board warning its clients of low water pressure and dry taps in some areas for an unspecified period.

Dodma has since released a statement forewarning people on what they ought to do when they experience the harsh weather conditions it warns “might trigger the occurrence of flash floods in low-lying and flood-prone areas.”

Dodma, in collaboration with various stakeholders, has intensified sensitisations and calls for people living in flood-prone areas to move upland.

Malawi is smarting from the initial floods that left 60 people dead and 800,000 displaced in some Southern Region districts such as Nsanje and Chikwawa due to the effects of Cyclone Idai which hit neighbouring Mozambique in March 2018.

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