Malawi: Karonga earthquake UNRC situation report no. 3

Situation Report
Originally published


1 The joint mission of WFP, UNICEF, FAO and UNFPA which was in Karonga from 23 to 28 December 2009 will be debriefing tomorrow (29 December) at 09.00 hrs at the UNDP conference room in Lilongwe.

2 There does not appear to be immediate unmet food needs for households affected by the earthquake. Food is available and accessible to Karonga inhabitants. Local markets are functioning, food is available, and prices are in line with seasonal trends.

3 While relief goods have been dispatched by a number of actors, the joint mission of WFP, UNICEF, FAO and UNFPA observed that no district distribution plan was in place and that some goods remained in Karonga town awaiting distribution.

4 The agricultural season is progressing with normal rains. Farmers are planting their fields. Cultivation by those villagers who have been relocated to Mulinda camp appears to have been temporarily disturbed by the earthquake. However, focus group interviews suggest that cultivation should be finished in the typically required timeframe.

5 In the coming one to three months, there should close monitoring of the food security situation in affected TAs, to assure that there are not unforeseen effects from the earthquake that may be resulting in slow-onset food insecurity.

6 UNICEF has observed the need for rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructure, which can be mainstreamed as part of their regular programmes.

After three months of low intensity seismological activity, Karonga was hit by a sequence of stronger earthquakes ranging between 5.4 and 6.0 on the Richter scale from 6 to 20 December 2009. Seismological activity continues and is taking the form of an earthquake swarm. There is no certainty about when this is expected to halt. The Embassy of the US in Malawi has confirmed that the US geological Survey department will be fielding a team of experts to Malawi to support the national authorities. These are scheduled to arrive within the next few days. The Government of Malawi has formally declared a national emergency on 21 December.

Despite the initial joint assessment mission (9-11 December), involving WFP, UNDP and UNICEF, no joint assessment report has been produced. On 11 December the Government indicated that 2,752 families had been affected. This rose to 3,860 on 18 December, at 20 December the figure was placed by Senior Officials in DoDMA (the national disaster management authority) at 4,677. On 22 December, the official Government figures indicate a total of 5,126 families affected, with 1,557 collapsed reportedly houses. The joint mission of WFP, UNICEF, FAO and UNFPA in their meetings with the District Administration established that the total number of affected people stands at 31,220 and these would be mainly the people whose housing was partially or completely destroyed and/or people who moved into the camp. The below figure quoted by Government centrally of 215,428 refers to people living in the area that has felt the impacts of the earthquakes.

The formal Government summary of damage caused as on 24 December 2009 is as follows:

-Number of deaths -4

-Number of people injured -186

-Total number of people affected -215,428

-Average household size -6

-Under five children affected -2,786 (as at 18 December 2009)

-School going children affected -15,000

-Institutional infrastructure damaged:

Police Mobile Force houses -15

School blocks -17

Agriculture houses -27

Teachers houses -48

Telecentre -1

Health post -1

Water points -5

Churches -7

Business places -17

Mosques -2

Initial reports on Mulinda camp indicated that some 600 families or 3,000 people have taken shelter there. A visit by UNICEF on 15 December indicated that 1,800 people had remained in the camp. However, people seem to be moving in and out, seeking shelter and relief. DoDMA officially keeps the number of displaced at 3,000. No formal headcount of the camp has been taken to date and the joint mission of WFP, UNICEF, FAO and UNFPA (23-28 December 2009) has not been able to validate these figures. They did observe that the camp has evolved into a distribution point for relief for 17 villages (up from 10 originally reported)

DoDMA have consistently indicated that shelter needs are to be regarded as urgent. On 24 December Government hosted a stakeholder meeting in which the situation was discussed in detail. The need for shelter and concerns with agricultural performance of the affected area were highlighted. The international community reiterated the donations and support provide to date (see pervious SITREPs) and highlighted concerns with the establishment of camps, the fear to create unnecessary dependency of relief goods, in particular food, and the need for formal figures from Government both on damage as well as relief provided to date. The meeting brought forward that additional organizations were providing support such as Word Vision, Plan International and MSF.

A WFP, UNICEF, FAO and UNFPA technical assessment mission departed for Karonga on 23 December. The mission sought (to the extent possible) to validate the working data at the district level as well as identify unmet immediate humanitarian needs and recovery issues. The mission liaised with the Red Cross on the ground, as well as the EU ECHO mission was in the area and the District Administration.