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United Nations challenges Malawi on disasters

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United Nations Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo has challenged government to put its house in order in preparation for impending disasters as time is running out before rainy season.

Seppo said more action is needed to prepare for disasters as the country is already warned that it will have La Nina which risks lives and property along with health impact and economic damage in flood, prone areas.

She was speaking yesterday at Kauma Primary School in Lilongwe during activities to commemorate the International Day for Disaster Reduction which was under the theme: Live to Tell: Raising Awareness, Reducing Mortality.

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Mia highlighted five practical actions which she said government and its partners should undertake immediately.

“First, contingency plans need to be updated and used as the basis to guide scenarios for evacuation of at-risk populations. Second, simulations exercises need to be conducted at multiple scales, from national, district to community levels with multiple stakeholders,” Mia said.

She also said district flood evacuation plans need to be finalised on a priority basis, including the comprehensive mapping of pre-identified evacuation sites that are accessible to all stakeholder particularly with those most directly at risk.

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She added: “While Malawi continues to strengthen its early warning system for hydro- meteorological hazards, ‘last mile connectivity’ is needed to ensure that these are meaningfully translated into actionable responses by affected communities and households.”

Seppo also said there is need for two way communication channels between the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people and communities and emergency responders. She also said funds have to be made available in advance to at-risk areas to cater for preparedness activities.

“Nationally, there is need to create a fast-track budget transfer instrument for disaster risk management among ministries, DoDMA, and city, municipal and district councils. Lastly, detailed plans need to be put in places that all stakeholders are clear about the importance of ensuring that the right resources are directed to the right areas at the right time,” she said.

Vice President, Saulos Chilima, who is also Minister for Disaster Management Affairs said government has developed the National Resilience Plan which will help guide to break the cycle of food insecurity and other disasters.

He also said government is working towards mainstreaming disaster risk reduction issues into sectors and districts.

“Government is also working to develop plans so that the capacity to respond to disasters is placed at the local level. In order to achieve this, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs [DoDMA] is devolving some of its activities to Local Authorities from next year,” he said.

Chilima pleaded with Malawians to slow down on childbearing, saying families should plan to have children that they can afford to raise because the high population in the country is already threatening natural resources.

He said the magnitude, frequency and impact of disasters have been increasing because of population growth, rapid urbanisation and environmental degradation.

“Climate change is already a reality in Malawi, threatening severe floods and persistent droughts. When these disasters occur, for example this year, Mzuzu was affected by floods which resulted in loss of lives and property,” he said.

He called for concerted efforts by the government, NGOs, all citizens and development partners to conserve the environment by-among others, re-afforestation programmes and proper planning of houses in the cities.

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