Four days of heavy rains and flooding in Southern Malawi last week have caused at least 45 deaths and 577 injuries, with two more people still missing, according to official data. So far, the floods have affected over 147,000 households (more than 739,000 people) in 14 districts, displacing over 15,000 households, mainly in the Southern Region.
On 8 March, President Peter Mutharika declared a state of disaster in areas hit by the floods. He has personally visited several districts condoling bereaved families and assuring them of government assistance.
Heavy rains have also devastated neighbouring Mozambique, where 66 people have been killed due to the floods, according to official sources.
“Under the guidance of the UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, the UN mobilised quickly and is working with the Malawi Government, through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), to support a rapid needs assessment and reach those most in need with life-saving rescue and relief assistance,” the UN office said in a statement.
“We are saddened that thousands of people have been affected by the floods and express our solidarity with the Government of Malawi and the victims of the floods,” said Torres.
“The UN is closely working with DoDMA, NGOs and development partners to support an efficient and effective humanitarian response,” he added.
While the relief operation has already started, the assessment teams are expected to provide comprehensive needs analysis towards the end of the week.
Key concerns are emergency shelter, food assistance, clean water, protection of children, adolescent girls, women, the elderly and people with disabilities, prevention of diseases, access to essential health services, including reproductive health services, as well as protection against potentially increased risk of gender based violence and human rights abuses.
With Tropical Cyclone Idai fast approaching Malawi over the next four days, more heavy rains and strong winds are expected, raising the likelihood of additional flooding.
According to the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, tropical cyclone Idai is expected to make landfall in Beira, Mozambique, bringing with it heavy rainfall and strong winds from 14 to 17 March 2019, which could likely affect the Southern parts of Malawi.
Torres said the UN is working with DoDMA to expand early warning messages to all vulnerable communities so that people move to high grounds, avoid crossing flooding rivers, and do not seek shelter under trees or weak infrastructure.
The worst floods to hit Malawi in living memory occurred in 2015 when 106 people were killed, 172 reported missing and 230,000 people were displaced. The Lower Shire districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa are prone to floods.
Within the framework of One UN, several UN offices, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organisation (WHO), are supporting the response in areas such as evacuation, strengthening coordination, assessments, providing immediate humanitarian support and formulating early recovery interventions.
“The UN remains committed to monitoring the situation and supporting the Government of Malawi to address this and any future emergencies,” the statement added.
Currently, there are more than 20 Agencies and specialised organisations of the United Nations active in Malawi which, through their work, contribute to ensuring a better life for the people of Malawi.