Malawi is highly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events given its location along the great African Rift Valley, rapid population growth, unsustainable urbanization, climate variability and change, and environmental degradation. The most common weather-related shocks affecting Malawi include floods, drought, stormy rains and hailstorms. Over the past five decades, Malawi has experienced more than 19 major floods and seven droughts, with these events increasing in frequency, magnitude and scope over the years. In early March 2019, heavy rains developed from a Tropical Depression 11 that formed offshore central Mozambique. Heavy rains hit Malawi, causing severe flooding in the Southern and, to a lesser extent, Central Region of the country. These disaster events have had a significant impact on people’s lives, livelihoods and socioeconomic infrastructure in the affected areas, pushing a large number of people into poverty and food insecurity.
With these events following the floods in 2015 and the drought in 2016, the impact on the affected population has been cumulative. In the pre-disaster period, about 3.3 million people in the flood affected districts were already categorized as food insecure. In 2016/2017, the national poverty rate stood at 51.5 percent, with most of the poor (59.5 percent) living in rural areas. In Malawi, the level of inequality is high, with the Gini coefficient standing at 0.433 in 2017. Thus, disruptions to livelihoods resulting from natural disasters and other causes are likely to widen the gap between the poor and the well off.
The Disaster Overview
On 8 March, in consideration of the impact of the heavy rains, floods and strong winds associated with Tropical Cyclone Idai, the Government of Malawi (“the Government”) declared a State of Disaster in the 13 districts and two cities in the Southern Region and two districts in the Central Region. It is estimated that approximately 975,600 people were affected by these floods (see Figure 1), with 60 deaths and 672 injuries reported. The 15 affected districts are Balaka,
Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Mangochi, Mulanje, Mwanza, Neno, Nsanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Zomba districts in the Southern Region and Dedza and Ntcheu in the Central Region. The two cities were Zomba City and Blantyre City. As a result of the disaster, around 90,000 internally displaced people (IDP) were sheltered in 174 IDP sites. Despite limitations to disaggregated data, an interagency assessment finding shows that the IDP included disproportionate number of women, with 63 percent of those in IDP shelters in Machinga, Mangochi, Balaka and Zomba being women, and 37 percent male.
The Government and development partners responded swiftly to the disaster, immediately implementing rescue and relief operations that saved many lives and rapidly mobilizing resources to provide food and nonfood items to people in the affected areas. However, most of the affected areas remained without shelter, requiring large numbers of IDP to be temporarily located in makeshift facilities and school classrooms, often with limited access to safe water and sanitation facilities. This use of school buildings disrupted schoolchildren’s learning activities to a significant extent.
To enable a full understanding of the effects and impact of the disaster, the Government in line with international best practice, initiated a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) to inform recovery and resilience interventions. In collaboration with development partners, the Government conducted the PDNA in all the affected 15 districts and two cities throughout April 2019 to jointly assess the effects and impacts of the heavy rains, strong winds and floods and to identify the needs for recovery. The assessment process began with the involvement of the PDNA Team (consisting of more than 50 government staff, together with representatives of the World Bank, United Nations agencies and other non-state actors) in an orientation to the PDNA process, covering data collection, review, and analysis and report compilation. The assessment was conducted in the period from 4-18 April, drawing on both primary and secondary data. A triangulation process was conducted, involving field visits to a number of affected districts to conduct interviews with key informants and relevant stakeholders, together with desk and expert reviews. The PDNA evaluated the effects of floods in terms of the total or partial destruction of infrastructure and physical assets and changes in economic flows arising from the disaster.
The economic value of effects was calculated on the basis of the cost of replacing or repairing infrastructure and physical assets; forgone income opportunities; higher operating costs; unexpected expenses; additional costs for coordination; provision of temporary facilities and staff; restoration of governance capacity; and expenditure related to the management of increased and/or new risks arising from the disaster.
The PDNA estimated that the total value of the effects of the disaster amounted to US$ 220.2 million and the Government will require US$ 370.5 million for resilient recovery and reconstruction needs. (see Table 1). In principle, the estimation of needs is based on estimations of the value of the capital damage; the cost of quality improvements; of technological modernization; of relocation and disaster risk reduction measures; and of livelihood, socio-economic, and environmental recovery activities. This PDNA was organized around a number of sectors and subsectors, as follows: (i) the social sector (housing, health and nutrition, education);
(ii) the productive sector (agriculture: crops, livestock, irrigation and fisheries; and commerce and industry);
(iii) the infrastructure sector (transport; energy; water supply and sanitation; and water resources); (iv) cross cutting issues (disaster risk reduction, DRR; environmental water systems; EWS, environment; social protection). In addition, the PDNA conducted both a macro-economic impact analysis and a human development impact analysis.
The devastating heavy rains and floods associated with the disaster resulted in substantial damage to infrastructure and physical assets and changes in economic production flows resulting in loss in both the public and private domains. The assessment estimates that the total effects of the disaster (in terms of both damage and loss) in the 17 affected areas (15 districts and two cities) amounted to US$ 220.2 million. Out of this, damage (the value of destroyed physical assets) accounts for US$ 157.7 million (72 percent of the total effects), while loss accounts for US$ 62.5 million (28 percent of the total). In terms of a sectoral breakdown, the largest proportion of the effects were on the social sector (US$130.3 million, 59 percent); followed by infrastructure (US$51.5 million, 23 percent); and then the productive sector (US$28.4 million, 17 percent) (see Figure 1).
The disaster effect was highest in the Social Sector whereby the Housing Sub-sector proportionately suffered the most damage followed by the Education and Health Sub-sectors. In some areas, a significant proportion of the population could not access social services in the post-disaster period due to extensive damage to roads and drainage structures. The floods washed away extensive sections of infrastructure (roads, bridges, power supply and irrigation and water supply equipment, intake structures, conveyance and distribution systems) in the affected districts and cities making it the second affected sector (see Table 2). In the productive sector, most of the effects were attributed to income loss among: farmers due to crops being submerged and washed away at maturing stage. fishermen; and small traders. Furthermore, the damage in one sector had spill-over effects in other sectors. For instance, the shutdown of the power plants3 for more than 48 hours resulted in disruptions to a range of commercial and economic activities. As a result of disruptions to supply, commodity prices increased by around 20 percent in postdisaster period and have remained volatile, increasing the risk of food insecurity for households in the affected areas.