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Government struggles to relocate disaster victims

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As the country faces a potentially catastrophic 2016/2017 rainy season due to imminent La Nina phenomenon in southern Africa, the government is still struggling to relocate people who live in disaster-prone areas in Nsanje and Chikwawa.

After the devastating floods of early 2015, which killed an estimated over 170 people and displacing over 230,000 people, there were calls for people to relocate to higher grounds but as time passed, the talk died down and the displaced people went back to their respective homes.

Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has said the process of ensuring that people relocate is still underway.

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Dodma spokesperson, Jeremiah Mphande, said relocation involves various government ministries, departments and other stakeholders on the ground including traditional leaders and district council members.

“Suffice to say that you need to know that issues to do with social amenities are also considered realising that you cannot just reallocate a family to a place where there is no water and other basic needs,” Mphande said.

On La Niña which is expected to bring with it more rains that will lead to floods, Mphande said apart from radio programmes and jingles that air on different radio stations, the department will disseminate more information after the release of seasonal forecast.

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“Every year before the rains start, our colleagues from the Met [Metrological] Department releases an annual National Seasonal Forecast. Soon after its release, the two departments disseminate the forecast across the country. This also involves civic educating community members, DEC members, civil protection committee at regional and district levels about the forecast and what impact it can bring,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Dodma in conjunction with the South African Rescue Team conducted a five-day Training of Trainers workshop on Search and Rescue.

During the workshop, officers from the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), Fire Department, the police, Aviation and others were trained in how to rescue people during a disaster and the participants will be involved in training others in different institutions across the country.

Currently, the United States military in partnership with MDF are in the country conducting the Southern Accord 2016.

Last week, the soldiers concluded conducting a disaster relief table-top exercise where they discussed issues to do with disaster response and some actions that should be taken in an emergency.

The exercise brings together partner nations to practice and demonstrate proficiency in conducting peacekeeping and disaster relief operations.

“Apart from the military training, the exercise has a component on disaster operations scenarios. Various stakeholder s including Dodma officers, the police are taking part in the exercise. The whole purpose is to professionally equip many people working in emergencies, hence a reduction in losing the lives of many people during a disaster,” Mphande said.

La Niña event is the direct opposite of the El Niño of the past which brought dry spells and crop failures that have left over 6.5 million people in the country in one of the worst hunger crisis.

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