The Southern Region of Malawi received 400% higher rains than usual (compared to the Long Term Mean) causing the Shire River to reach its highest level in 30 years.
Heavy rains experienced in the first quarter of 2015 caused flooding in 15 of the 28 districts in Malawi, most of which are located in the southern part of the country. The President declared a state of disaster on 13 January 2015 and appealed for assistance from the international community in managing the disaster and its aftermath. Assessments were carried out by different agencies including an initial joint assessment by Malawi Red Cross.
Society (MRCS) and the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) for the Government of Malawi. Besides this, other assessments were conducted; one by the United Nations Disaster Assessments and Coordination (UNDAC), and the second was an Inter-Agency Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) coordinated by the Ministry of Lands and Housing, the third was a Damage Tracking Matrix (DTM) led by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The MRCS participated in all these assessments.
The assessments prioritised a number of districts based on the effects of flooding on livelihoods, displacement of populations and destruction of infrastructure, properties and farmlands. It is reported that 230,000 people were displaced and 63,000 hectares of farmlands destroyed1 . The prioritised districts included Nsanje, with an estimated 74,000 people displaced, Phalombe with about 50,000 people displaced and Chikwawa with an estimated 35,000 people displaced. Other districts included Zomba, Blantyre and Mulanje. Out of this list of prioritised districts, the Red Cross targeted five districts, four to be supported through the Emergency Appeal (Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe and Blantyre) with a combined total of 8,493 Households (42,130 persons) and the fifth district (Zomba) to be supported by Danish Red Cross through a bilateral funding to Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS).
The MRCS launched an Emergency Appeal operation with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) with the focus on 6 key outcomes: Improving preventive health measures; filling gaps in the provision of water, sanitation & hygiene solutions; helping to bridge the food gaps left by the lost crops and upcoming lean season; helping people to establish safe temporary shelters for their families; support to protection measures including family links and psychosocial support; and improving MRCS own capacity in disaster preparedness and response. Key outcomes as at the end of December 2015 include:
9,477 households were supported with standard non-food items (NFI) in the four districts. In addition, 8,384 households received energy saving stoves donated by Habitat for Humanity to MRCS.
350 volunteer carpenters were trained to construct emergency and transitional shelter. A total of 2,209 households (out of targeted 5,200) had benefitted from emergency (in IDP Camps) and transition shelters.
Training on PASSA (Participatory Approach to Safe Shelter Awareness) of 20 MRCS and government (DoDMA and Department of housing) staff was concluded in June 2015. Altogether 20 MRCS and government staff (Ministry of Housing and DoDMA) staff were trained on safe shelter. The knowledge and skills acquired during the training benefitted both the emergency and recovery shelter construction. During the month of July and early August 2015, PASSA related sensitisation was conducted in resettlement sites to those affected by the floods.
340 volunteers have been trained on Epidemic Control and Surveillance and supported efforts towards controlling the outbreak of cholera. The outbreak which began with case importations from Mozambique registered 423 cases with 6 deaths (by mid-April) spread across 7 districts. MRCS trained additional volunteers (through UNICEF support) to carry out similar efforts in border districts registering cases.
16 bore holes were rehabilitated and a further 20 new bore holes in resettlement areas have been drilled, and are providing water to permanently resettled communities.
37 temporary latrines with handwashing facilities were constructed in camps. Construction of 18 permanent latrines with hand washing facilities was completed in 4 schools which were used as IDP centres. 44 latrines were exhausted in Blantyre district.
600 bundles of sweet potato vines were distributed in Chikwawa, 700 in Phalombe and 150 in Nsanje districts.
A number of challenges faced during the initial phase of the operation included slow pace of delivery of relief supplies due to damage to major link roads; the prepositioned relief supplies were insufficient and emergency procurements had to be done; erratic beneficiary figures which made targeting difficult; and streamlining operations with consideration of participation of other actors proved difficult and often overlaps were reported despite the cluster coordination efforts. A number of donations were made to MRCS by local partners, and most of these did not have logistical support which strained operational resources.
In the recovery phase the main challenge was the slow process for the resolution by the government structures at the local (Traditional Authorities - TAs) and district (District Councils) levels on resettlement land for the floods displaced persons. This delayed the initiation of activities such as drilling of boreholes and construction of permanent shelter.