Dikes saved lives during March Disasters – DODMA

By Mathews Malata Jr

Construction of dikes helped to save lives during the March disasters which killed 60 people, affected 92 thousand households and displaced thousands in the process.

Director in the Department of Disaster Management Affairs James Chiusiwa confirmed this on the sidelines of the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction taking place this week in Geneva Switzerland.

Dikes are constructed to protect the land behind it from flooding and many have been constructed in some disaster-prone areas across the country.

Chiusiwa said many more lives could have been lost if the did not exist. He says the department engaged engineers who proposed changes to the designs in order to make them effective.

“Although some of them were breached, talking to communities that would have been affected if the were not there indicated the saved lives because it took a number of days before the water could flood the areas that were affected.

“Had it not been that some of them were constructed, the devastation could have been more than what was experienced during the March 2019 floods”, he said.

In the past, some people including the Vice President of the country who at some point was given the responsibility to manage the disaster department expressed worry over the quality of and standard of some that have been constructed.

Chiusiwa made an assurance that a lot of progress has been made and that people continue to benefit from such interventions

“t this meeting, we would want to see what others are doing in minimizing risk. Even from our own experience, talking to engineers in Malawi they have indicated that we need to look at the designs which were done so that there can be improvement in what we are doing currently.

“I think there are some positives but of course there are lessons that ought to be learnt so that as we move forward with the implementation of disaster risk reduction we can bring in the resilience element so that we should be able to build back better”, he added.

Asked on why it took long for some communities to move out danger zones days after warnings from the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, Chisuiwa admitted that an area which Malawi should seriously consider massive investments in the next years is the establishment of effective and resilient early warning systems.

“We have several community-based disaster risk interventions which aim at reducing impact o disasters in the communities and in line with Sendai Framework. An area of interest for us is the effectiveness of the early warning systems in other countries.

“We want to see what they are doing to ensure communities are warned before disasters occur so that when they finally do they are not impacted as the way the case would be if they were not warned” Said Chiusiwa

His sentiments were concurred by Priscilla Chisala, Director of Programs and Development at Malawi Red Cross Society who also shared her organisation’s experience in the implementation of early warning systems.

She argued there is a need to have a system that not only triggers warnings but is also able to invite early action and promote finance based forecasting (FbF).

Chisala,a specialist in DRR issues said currently MRC works with volunteers who were trained to interpret weather forecast and disseminate early warning messages.

She said this far, MRC has successfully established 44 early warning teams on 12 flood-prone rivers in districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Zomba, Phalombe and Thyolo.

The Global Platform is being driven by the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction with four priorities and 7 targets.

This time member states will review progress made towards implementation of critical targets before the year 2030 when it expires.

Heavily being scrutinized is target E which voluntarily demands countries to establish national strategies addressing disaster risk by 2020.

Malawi already established the National Resilience Strategy and incorporated all the priorities in the Malawi Growth Development Strategy III.

According to a disaster situation report No. 4 released on 27th April 2019, about 731, 000 people from the 15 affected districts were in need of support.