Malawi flood situation update 19-31 Mar 2003

Situation Report
Originally published
The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (ESCOM) announced power rationing after flooding water crippled its power station at Nkula B on Sunday 10 March. The power cut continues to severely disrupt the services of some humanitarian organisations in the country.


Heavy rains falling in the Livingstonia Highlands, Rumphi District, Northern Malawi during the past week has caused the flooding of Salawi River and landslides. One person has been confirmed dead and three are still missing after fifty households were swept away under the landslides and an avalanche of debris. In addition 991 hectares of crops have also been affected. In Livingstonia area sixteen villages have been affected and in Chiweta area two villages suffered the same fate. Those affected have moved upland and are sharing households with other community members. No assistance has been mobilised at the time of reporting, however the communities were attempting to excavate those areas hit by the landslides. The area is said to be impassable up to a distance of two kilometres.

Other districts are still experiencing the effects of heavy rainfalls and these include Ntchisi District where on 18th March Village Headman Bingavula II reported that waterlogging conditions had affected some households in the area causing houses to collapse. On the same day the Agricultural Extension Officer reported that water logging conditions had affected maize crop to the extent that the maize has turned yellow in the areas of Chipuka EPA and river swelling has also affected some farm families in the area. It was later verified that 13 houses had collapsed at Bingavula and 53 people were affected. Families have since moved to relatives on elevated land and some have built grass shelters. The cumulative families affected by waterlogging conditions have now risen to 27 with the inclusion of TA Malenga. Mzimba District experienced flooding of Dwangwa and Lupachi Rivers on the 19th March. Two hundred and four households and twenty hectares of crops were affected in four villages in Kabuwa area of TA Khosolo. Crops were washed away during the floods and it is expected there will be a 30% reduction in crop harvest for that area. In other parts of the district, crops that have survived rain, floods and drought are good and farmers are presently harvesting fresh maize for early consumption. In those areas affected by the dry spell during February and March, crops remain wilted. Kasungu District also experienced the effect of an afternoon hailstorm occurring in Chamwabvi on 22nd March where the roof of Chamwabvi Health Centre was blown off. The health centre has now been moved to a vacant staff house.


As rains continue to fall intermittently throughout Malawi, most districts are presently determining to what extent crops have been affected by dry spells and how much will be recovered with the rains that have followed during March. Some districts are starting to take maize from gardens for consumption; however there appears to be a drop in yield for those gardens planted late. For instance during the first week of the reporting period most parts of Chikwawa District had no showers except for the northern part, specifically TA Makhuwira. However in the last week the district has been receiving some rains. In those areas, which did not receive rains, wilting has been observed especially in cereals due to lack of moisture and high temperatures. According to the second crop forecast, yield has dropped as compared to the first forecast and the crop estimate for this year's summer production for maize is at 65,474 mt, which represents only 45% of the food, required to feed the whole district. Termites have also been very destructive in maize and bollworms, sucking insects and leaf eaters have been prevalent in cotton. Armyworms were reported in Livunzu EPA where eight hectares and 40 farmers have been affected. Durban was provided to the farmers to rid the pest. In Karonga District, rains started on 16th March, after a prolonged dry spell of five weeks. However, the dry spell has adversely affected crops in the district, such that the rains, which are now being received, will not be of significance to the expected yield of damaged crops. Crops such as maize, groundnuts, millet, and rice have been affected. However they will assist in winter cropping and newly planted cassava and sweet potatoes. Farmers, who planted with early rains of November 2002, have their crop mature and ready for harvesting. Upland rice is described as the worst ever in years. Out of 2,880 hectares, 2,347 hectares have been badly affected by the dry spell.


According to the Department of Disaster Preparedness and Management Affairs (DoPDMA) humanitarian aid being given to people was in response to the famine that hit the country in the past two years. The areas hit with floods are being assisted. However those whose houses were demolished during the floods are the ones who received immediate assistance. The DoPDMA will work in collaboration with MoAI (Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation) in assisting those people whose crops had been washed away. Money was obtained from Treasury for this relief programme and it is expected that additional money will be obtained from Treasury to execute the remaining part of the programme.

People whose crop was washed away by floods or destroyed by prolonged dry spells should be assisted with replanting. The winter TIP (Targeted Input Programme) should therefore target those areas hit by these disasters. The winter TIP will target 400,000 households. However, some districts, which had been hit by the dry spells like Nkhata Bay, are only receiving very little amount of the TIP packs (less than 2000 households).


Malawi like many other southern African countries has clearly isolated lack of Agricultural Inputs by the smallholder farmer as one of the many contributing factors to the low levels of food production leading to household food insecurity situations. However, some development partners like the Department for International Development (DFID) has for the past five years been a part of the funding agent for free agricultural inputs distribution programmes to smallholder farmers in the country. The numbers targeted were as follows: -

1998/1999 2.3 million
1999/2000 2.3 million
2000/2001 1.5 million
2001/2002 1.0 million

For 2002, a distribution of inputs for winter cropping was conducted where 300,000 farm families with access to dambo gardens or irrigation facilities were provided with the inputs. The contents of the input pack included 5 Kgs of NPK, 5 Kgs of Urea, 2 Kgs of maize seed and 1 Kg of a suitable legume for the area being served. The year 2003 targeted 2 million farm families considering the food shortage situation of 2002/2003 and in addition to DFID, NORAD and the Government of Malawi took part in the programme. This programme cost MK 1,105,560,060. (This information has been provided and published by the MoAI)


In order to increase the sales of commercial maize the government has decided to allow the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to sell the tendered maize for MK14/Kg and above. The maize should not be sold at a cheaper price than MK14/Kg to avoid depressing the market price for maize, which in turn could be a disincentive for farmers.


This programme has been approved by the government and endorsed by the Head of Delegation of the European Commission. Under the programme consultants will be hired to develop the Food and Nutrition Policy. The individuals to form the working group of consultants will comprise of the following expertise: Policy Development, Agriculture with a bias in information systems, Monitoring and Evaluation, Macroeconomic issues, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS, Business and Economics with expertise in designing, monitoring and evaluation of MPRSP (Malawi Poverty and Reduction Strategy Paper). The group of consultants is expected to work for 9 months and at the latest the document should be out by December 2003.


A Joint review of the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework took place from 24-25 March where issues on developing capacity of the communities to respond to HIV/AIDS in emergency situations were discussed. The National Aids Commission (NAC) endorsed a recommendation to include specific interventions on diversifying food production to meet the challenges of nutrition for people living with HIV/AIDS. According to NAC, it is estimated that 1 million people out of the country's population of 12 million are living with HIV.

Cholera control activities

The total number of cases and deaths registered in Malawi during the period October 5th 2002 and March 21st 2003 is 2432 cases and 41 deaths (Case Fatality Rate, CFR 1.7). This is a marked improvement over the results observed during the previous outbreak, by March 24th 2002 a total of 29,956 cases and 804 deaths had been declared in the country (CFR 2.7).

Lilongwe 31 March 2003