Declare Likoma Disaster Prone, Stakeholders Urge Govt
Stakeholders have recommended to government and its partners to declare Likoma and Chizumulu Islands prone district to disaster occurrences due to its geographical position which is a key risk factor threatening lives and property of the Island people.
Remarks were made on Wednesday when Commissioner for Department of Disaster and Management Affairs (DoDMA) Charles Kalemba, held an interface meeting with members of Civil Protection Committees (CPCs) following the heavy stormy winds which affected about 78 households in the Island district between 18 and 19 February 2022.
Relief and Rehabilitation Officer (RRO) for Likoma district Daniel Mandala said the geographical position of the two Islands is completely different from other districts which were declared disaster-prone areas in Malawi.
For instance, he said being an Island district; on its own, it is a risk feature that by default makes the Islands exposed and face various occurrences from all directions.
“The geographical position of Likoma and Chizumulu Islands makes them prone to risk factors of disaster occurrences such as heavy rains, dry spells, and various modes of winds including the Cyclones. Let me emphasize that most houses built on these two Islands are temporary structures due to poor natural soils and rocky terrain,” Mandala explained.
Alluding to the remarks, vice-chairperson for Likoma district council Ernest Gulu observed that Likoma and Chizumulu are being sidelined in many intervention areas citing the delayed response to the challenges as an example that makes the Island people think that they are not considered.
“People living in the Islands of Likoma and Chizumulu are Malawians too, but what happens sometimes we tend to wonder if the authorities have our history in their books. Imagine the disaster that happened in February the affected households have just received the lifesaving items today, “he lamented. Wondering how can an Island have no rapid response speed boat, search and rescue team?”
He then said some of the efforts are failing to implement because as a secretariat Likoma district council has some of its officers such as planning in an acting capacity, hence a call for government to put its house in order if things are to work for the better in the Island district.
DoDMA commissioner Kalemba has also been to various districts such as in Nsanje and Chikwawa where about 193,558 households (948, 434 people) were seriously hit by the effects of cyclone Ana; and floods swept away 740 hectares of crops; houses, and property damaged while 37 people reported dead and others are still missing.
Upon his visit to Likoma on Wednesday Kalemba told the DCPC members that DoDMA may be underfunded or its interventions may be affected by various uncertainties in the future. He cited the need to adopt the new way of addressing and responding to disasters.
He emphasized the need to put in place a contingent plan that can empower the citizenry to deal with disaster risks and do away with dependency syndrome because DoDMA only provides for life-saving materials such as Food, plastic utensils, and plastic roofing sheets which are temporary.
“We must establish the self-reliant and self-resilient citizenry that can be empowered to build strong and permanent buildings that are resilient to disasters. DCPCs have the mandate to monitor hazards and establish ways how we can deal with disasters,” he highlighted.
Kalemba cited Rwanda as an example where government provides free iron sheets to citizens who build strong and permanent houses. He also hinted that government will soon engage building experts to help the citizens with skills of building strong and permanent structures.
He also observed the faulty disaster reporting and response system in Malawi as one of the weaknesses at DoDMA saying in most cases the lifesaving materials do not urgently reach out to the affected households.
He then asked all stakeholders to report issues of disaster in good time.
“Reporting in good time is paramount because DoDMA’s service charter stipulates that response must reach out to the affected as rapidly as 72 hours. Start looking at disaster risk reduction and impacts and let us respond with speed,” he further said.
On the need for a search and rescue team, the Commissioner said Likoma should have been the first to be provided with a speed boat for rescue operations because it is an Island saying, “ DoDMA will start training search and rescue teams in the next 3 weeks.”
Meanwhile, DoDMA has since distributed maize, beans, blankets, plastic pails, and rolls of plastic roofing sheets to 78 affected households in the Island district.
Speaking after receiving the symbolic items on Wednesday, one of the affected beneficiaries, Rose Lilinga told Zodiak that despite delayed response to the events that led to her only house in which she stayed with her parents the lifesaving items will help in one way or the other.
Malawi is one of the nations in Southern Africa where hundreds of people were affected by the effects of tropical storms Ana and DUMAKO with several houses, property, and lives were lost to flush floods.