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Malawi traditional leaders hijack roles of disaster committees

Village Civil Protection Committees (VCPC) in Thyolo say chiefs have hijacked their roles during disasters as committees are ignored completely, bringing disorganization in natural disaster response.

These complaints were made on Wednesday during revamping of VCPCs in Traditional Authority Khwetemule in the district, an exercise which was supported by United Purpose.

“During disasters, instead of committee linking with the authorities at council level, you find the chiefs have already communicated the issue. It is the same with registration of victims, most chiefs assign their own people to do the exercise,” Chairperson of Khwetemule Area Civil Protection Committee, Davie Masenga.

He said when the committees are hijacked of their roles, there are several problems that arise as those who take responsibility do for their own interest.

“We have scenarios where registration of victims goes to wrong people and the lists are also exaggerated as they have a personal interest,” Masenga observed.

Responding to the concern, Village head Masitade, said chiefs come in because some committees are dormant during disasters.

He said sometimes it takes a chief to remind the committee on what to do when a disaster occurs.

“A disaster is something that should be taken seriously and respond to urgently. So we chiefs, take over when VCPCs take long to act. We wouldn’t sit and watch people suffer when we can ably do the needful,” Masitade pointed out.

Community Development Assistant (CDA) for the area, Mike Kazembe, whose sector coordinates natural disaster issues, said in an interview, that VCPCs are ignored during disasters because chiefs have their own expectations especially on victim assistance from well wishers.

The CDA said there was a need for chiefs to be oriented on their roles and those of VCPC in the areas so that they coordinate well during disasters for the benefit of the victims.

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