Written by  Yamikani Simutowe

Little rain leads to drought; too much rain leads to floods. But what cannot be disputed is that climate change is a huge challenge that will continue to pose serious threat to life and livelihoods.

Flooded homes in Mozambique [Photo-Internet] Flooded homes in Mozambique [Photo-Internet]


Worse still, climate change, according to a 2021 study by Nature Geoscience, is causing an expansion of tropical cyclones, leaving other countries more vulnerable.


Countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are equally vulnerable.


Meanwhile, Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar are counting the cost of damage caused by heavy rains and flooding linked to Cyclone Ana. Cyclone Ana landed in Mozambique on 23rd January 2022 causing non-stop rains and heavy winds.


The cyclone left people’s homes flooded with water, roads cut off, people missing, dozens confirmed dead as well as thousands being displaced and lacking food items.


Floods have affected over 800,000 people in Malawi (Photo-Dodma]


In Madagascar, at least 48 deaths have been reported while 130,000 people have been left homeless.


In Mozambique, according to published reports, Cyclone Ana destroyed over 10,000 homes and dozens of schools and hospitals.


UN Resident Coordinator in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, was quoted as saying "vulnerability is very, very high".


"The challenge is titanic, the challenge is extreme," she said.


In Malawi, Cyclone Ana killed at least 32 people and affected over 845,000 people in the southern region, where some areas have been declared disaster zones. The tropical storm also caused a nationwide power cut.


Meanwhile, Mercy Jositala, 56, from the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Maseya Chikwawa district, is distressed with another warning from the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services of Tropical Batsiral building in the Indian Ocean and may cause more havoc.


Jositala is among those who have lost their homes, crops and livestock in the district.


“The floods have reduced me and my family to nothing. All my property has been damaged,” says Jositala, who was also affected by devastating floods linked to Cyclone Idai 2019.


Cyclone Idai killed 60 people, displaced nearly 87,000 and affected the livelihoods of around 870,000 people in Malawi and 370 million US Dollars was needed to support the affected households, according to Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma).

Chakwera: If we have cyclones, it's more deaths [Photo-State House, Malawi]


In Zimbabwe, heavy rains and flooding linked to Cyclone Idai, killed around 40 people. Homes and properties, including a stockpile of coal at Hwange Power Station, the country’s largest thermal power facility, were equally damaged.


It’s a similar story in neighboring Mozambique. Economic activities at the Port of Beira, the second largest port there, were affected by floods. Ninety percent of the City of Beira was damaged. Operations were halted, affecting businesses within and beyond Mozambique borders that use the port for exports and imports.


Beira provides short and quick access route for transit cargo to or from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Democratic Republic of Congo and a fuel pipeline stretches from the port to Zimbabwe.


Over 500,000 people were rendered homeless and an estimated 700,000 hectares of crops were lost in central Mozambique as a result of widespread flooding and heavy winds in the wake of Idai.


These unpleasant events are occurring at a time when the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are calling on nations—poor or rich—to promote prosperity while protecting the environment and tackling climate change.


Mozambique’s Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário: We do not contribute much for climate change [Photo-Internet]


In 2015, United Nations member states adopted the SDGs as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.


The universal call also emphasizes that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.


However, Sadc Member States seem to be grappling with natural disasters—mainly floods and droughts—with more resources being channeled towards post disaster activities.

In the face of a changing climate, more people are prone to these extreme weather events. And mostly, the poorest and vulnerable communities—both in rural and urban areas—suffer the most.


If the rise in temperatures is not limited to the prescribed mark, scientists say the globe’s future could be swallowed by storms, floods, fires and heat waves.


The Paris Agreement, a legally binding International treaty on climate change—adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016—aims to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.



Malata: Floods and tropical storms are a genuine threat [Photo-Internet]


Malawi, according to Dodma, has for the past decades experienced more than 19 major floods and seven droughts, with these events increasing in frequency, magnitude and scope.


In the last four years alone, total losses and damages have been estimated at US$921 million, while recovery and reconstruction needs amounted to close to US$1.4 billion.


Malawi’s President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, who is also the Chairperson of Sadc, concedes that natural disasters are defeating his country’s quest for economic growth.


In November 2021, Chakwera told the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland that Malawi needs $2.3 billion (nearly K1.9 trillion) annually to reduce emissions and cope with climate change effects.


"Already, we have suffered a great deal. If things cannot be mitigated, that's more death and more unpredictability. If you have more floods, that's more death. If we have more droughts, that's more death. If we have cyclones, it's more deaths,” said Chakwera.


Floods also affect education as school blocks are turned into shelters for victims [Photo-Internet]


Likewise, Mozambique’s Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário admits that the challenge is bigger than any one country's ability to tackle it.


"We are a country that does not contribute much for climate change, and yet we are one of the countries that suffer the most from its impact," Rosário is quoted as saying by the BBC.


Chakwera and Rosário feel heavily industrialized Western countries are not doing enough to sharply cut gushing greenhouse gases.


However, Chakwera stresses the need for more investment in strategies that would help in mitigating the risks of natural disasters in the region rather than spending a lot of money in relief activities after a disaster.


The Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) equally calls for implementation of risk reduction strategies both at national and Sadc levels, to save lives and build more-resilient nations.


CEPA Executive Director Hebert Mwalukomo feels individual countries have got umbrella frameworks to guide resilient building actions in areas of agriculture, social protection, disaster risk management and forest and catchment management, but they are not fully utilized.


Malawi’s strategies, linked to and built on various policy frameworks existing in the respective sectors, include the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II); National Disaster Risk Management Policy; National Agriculture Policy; Agriculture Sector Wide Approach; Malawi National Social Support Programme; Post Disaster Needs Assessment Report and the National Water Policy.


Environmental activist, Mathews Malata blames Sadc Member States for focusing much on response and not disaster risk reduction.


Malata claims “response is generally kind of reactive” and takes away a lot of money.


“Floods and tropical storms are a genuine threat to the advancement of any development agenda and in this case, they pose a very big threat in as far as attaining the SDGs targets and the Covi-19 has just made things worse.


“We are yet to reduce the number of people usually affected by the floods. We are yet to reduce the number of houses or infrastructure that gets damaged when these floods occur.


“So, we still have a long way to go because each and every time we have got floods, we register huge economic losses,” Malata says.


He stresses the need for more investment in the disaster risk reduction sector, saying disaster risk financing is crucial in disaster risk reduction management.


But the Head of Communications and Public Relations at SADC Secretariat, Barbara Lopi says the 16 Member States are addressing disaster risk from a regional approach through national-driven actions.


Lopi asserts that countries aligned their disaster risk management frameworks, including policies and the strategies, to the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR).


“Currently the Strategy is providing guidance on the operationalization of a regional preparedness and response approach through the development of guidelines, systems operating procedures and capability investment effort, says Lopi.


In February 2020, according to Lopi, Ministers responsible for Disaster Risk Management (DRM) met in Zanzibar where they approved the Regional Resilience Framework 2020- 2030 with strategic performance pillars to address decision-making, poverty and vulnerabilities, gender inequalities, DRM mainstreaming and resilience building for strengthened disaster risk management in the region.


Strategies supporting DRM efforts in the region include the SADC Vision 2050 and RISDP 2020-2030 Strategic Objectives for DRM, SADC Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund 2016-2030, (SADC) Regional Resilience Framework 2020-2030, Africa Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and Programme of Action and the Sendai Framework.


However, Lopi admits that DRM efforts face a number of challenges, which include the outbreak of Covid-19 and African Migratory Locusts Infestation.


“The scale and frequency of disaster risks events is on the increase globally and also in the region, from the cyclone disturbances and widespread floods, to persistent drought and food insecurities currently affecting 51 million people and stunting figures averaging above 25% for a significant number of Member States in both rural and urban areas, EBOLA in the DRC, African Migratory Locusts infestations in eight Member States and now the COVID-19 and that has compounded the disaster effects translating to macro (socio-economic) and micro (household) impacts,” explains Lopi.


She, therefore, stresses that the preparedness and response capacities need to be enhanced at all levels in terms of the technical and financial resources in the region and strengthen collective regional multi-hazard contingency planning for all the Member States collaboratively with the regional cooperating partners.


“There is limited domestic resource mobilization to fund the multi-hazard contingency plans at various levels. There is still limited risk-responsive national development planning and budgetary allocation and if there are, these do not correlate to the magnitude and preparedness and response needs when the disaster risks event occurs.


“Disaster risk communication and knowledge translation into lives saving, risk-proofing livelihoods, assets and economies actions at the various levels. This should also be completed by the availability of timely data and information to inform early warning and decision making,” Lopi asserts.

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