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THE NATION

18 ADVERTISING

TUESDAY march 10 2015

THE CATHOLIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION IN MALAWI

PRESS RELEASE

On Current Flooding Disaster: A Call to Bring Us


Out of Our Slumber
1.0 Introduction
The Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM), which is the relief and development
arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), is grieved by the flooding disaster, which has hit
Malawi since the onset of the first rains. Thousands of people have been displaced and rendered
homeless, houses and crops destroyed and many people injured. Even more alarming is the death
toll. Over 106 people have been reported dead and hundred others still missing with no hope of
being found alive. About 15 districts, including Karonga, Rumphi, Zomba, Machinga, Mangochi,
Salima, Mulanje, Phalombe, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Blantyre, Dedza and Ntcheu have been affected due to
continuous and heavy downpour of rains.
On 13th January 2015, the State President of the Republic of Malawi declared Malawi a state of disaster.
We, at CADECOM, join other patriotic Malawians in commending the State President for declaring the
current flooding a National Disaster. The Office of the President has worked tirelessly in responding
to the displaced and affected population. The urgency under which the disaster issue was treated is
commendable. This is about human life. It is about human dignity. It is about human rights.
We also commend the Catholic Bishops in Malawi who in the spirit of solidarity to the affected families
called upon the Catholic faithful and all people of good will to join hands and contribute generously.
Saddened by the tragic consequences of the disaster, the Bishops set aside Sunday 8th February 2015,
as a special day for collections towards this noble cause.
Further to this, the Bishops dedicated all collections for the AMECEA Thanks giving Mass on 31st
January, 2015 towards the support of the flood victims.
We, at CADECOM, are deeply concerned, as an institution, which works mainly with the rural
communities, that the most affected are the poor Malawians, some of whom were already struggling
to meet their basic needs. While we struggle together to respond to the disaster which has befallen
us, we join the State President in calling upon the general public, the donor agencies and our
international development partners to spare whatever we can to support our brothers and sisters who
are trapped in this catastrophic condition. The nation has a huge task of supporting those displaced
and affected so that they can resume their normal life. The state, non-governmental organizations, the
donor community and individuals of good will need to put together their efforts towards recovery.
The magnitude of this disaster shock to the livelihoods of the affected communities is huge; it requires
integrated and multifaceted interventions to come back to normal life.
While it is good news to hear and see some NGOs already planning for mid and long term recovery
programs, we at CADECOM, still feel there is need for more resources to support our brothers and
sisters to live a dignified life. We still have people in camps, where they live without basic human
entitlements; this is not where they belong. The displaced and affected cannot live their life to the full,
as per Our Lords call: I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). We
need to think and plan seriously how to get the flood victims settled in life again. Hence, we plan to
prevent such disasters in the future. Floods become a disaster when in contact with human beings.
This is everyones responsibility; including those affected since it is in them we have some capacities,
skills, resources that may be utilized to recover from this livelihood shock.
2.0 Lessons from the Current Flooding Disaster to Malawians
We, at CADECOM appreciate the solidarity and empathy of our neighbours who cry: Our hearts
are heavy that Malawians continue to die in the wake of devastating floods that are sweeping lives,
individual properties and public infrastructure across the country. This is a crisis that was waiting to
happen; an emergency that should have been well prepared of. This is about peoples lives. It is about
our national economy and the future of Malawi.
As we mourn the loss of lives, we further imagine the loss of property and the resources that have been
used in responding to this disaster. We are delighted that finally the Disaster Risk Management Policy
has been approved. In the context of climate change if disaster risk management is not given due
priority, it can easily wash away all the development gains within a second. This is only one of many
disasters we are sure to experience and which will prevent any significant progress or development
in Malawi if preparedness measures are not strengthened at all levels. We need to be proactive in
disaster preparedness. Studies indicate that the resources we use in reactive response are 7 times
more, as we would have used if we had invested in disaster preparedness. The figures that have gone
into humanitarian response to the flooding disaster are alarming. The ECM through its partners and
the Church Structures, alone has managed to raise close to MK1 billion just for short-term sustenance
of human life. If these resources were channeled towards long-term development the impact would
have been great.
The effects of reactive response to disaster have been self-evident. We feel if we were well prepared
some of the resources we have used would have been saved. However, this is all water under the
bridge, for now we have some areas needing our attention, and some of them are:
2.1 Need for Harmonization of Resilient building policies.

We, at CADECOM, and other stakeholders working in Disaster Risk Reduction, are pleased with
the government commitment towards Disaster Risk Management. The approval of the DRM
Policy is a mark of political will. With the DRM Policy in place, we call upon the government

to facilitate approval of the Climate Change Policy and facilitate the formulation of National
Agriculture Policy. Their approval and implementation would greatly contribute to building a
resilient Malawi to climatic and disaster related livelihood shocks. It is ironic that we are agrobased economy yet we have no National Agriculture Policy.
2.2 Need for Separate Budget Vote for DRM

Efficient and appropriate financial allocation to disaster risk management is a key factor in
disaster preparedness. That National Disaster Risk Management measures have not found their
way into national budgetary framework worries us; they rely heavily on external assistance,
mostly implemented by civil societies. It is our call that in the 2015/2016 financial year the
government categorically allocates resources towards disaster risk management.
2.3 Need for Increased Public Understanding of Disaster Risk Management

The current flooding disaster is a wakeup call from our slumber; an opportunity for the
government to make a public statement on disaster preparedness. Floods are a mere human
hazard; they become a disaster when in contact with human beings and their associated
activities. We need to raise public awareness on disaster risk management, as we have done
with HIV and AIDS. We need to raise public awareness on the need to adapt more to our
changing environment. We need to let the public understand what disaster risk management
entails and its linkage with climate change adaptation. The government needs to commit
to making DRM a cross cutting issue in all departments and to make sure DRM activities are
adequately financed.
2.4 Need to Decentralize DRM activities and Capacitate District Councils

With District Councils being the first recipients of disaster reports; we wish each council had
requisite response equipment in case of any disaster. On this we feel the devolution plan that
DoDMA has developed get financed in the next financial year. We need to have fully fledged
and capacitated District DRM offices with first response equipment. We aspire district councils
that can take immediate response to disaster before Capital Hill intervenes. The district
contingency plans need to be financed.
2.5 Need to Strengthen and take seriously Early Warning Systems

While different stakeholders, including CADECOM, have developed and documented various
early warning systems, indigenous as well as scientific, there is need for political will to
popularize and utilize the same. The government structure is well placed to enhance effective
communication of the same through all its decentralized offices localized countrywide.
2.6 Need to Reflect Seriously on our Overdependence on Rain Fed Agriculture
3.0 Conclusion
Once again, we would like to commend the government and the Bishops for taking steadfast
measures and for being responsive to the current disaster, which has left a dark shadow on the
nation. We are called to live in harmony with nature; we are called to be Gods stewards. While
we join the State President in mourning with those who lost their loved ones and pray for their
souls to rest in eternal peace, we again call upon well wishers from all quarters of life, national and
international, institutions and individuals to help in supporting the many Malawians who are in dire
need to regain their full life. We also call upon policy makers to seriously review livelihood policies;
we are concerned with our overdependence on rain fed agriculture with vast waters flowing freely
into Zambezi river enroute to the Indian Ocean. We wish the government made irrigation farming
a priority area if we are to join food secure nations, and even become the regional food basket.
Inspired by the gospel values of Our Lord: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was
thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes
and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Math
25:35-36), we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all our partners who support us in
emergency and relief (Trcaire, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Cordaid, Caritas Norway, CAFOD,
Caritas Korea, Caritas Australia, SCIAF, Oxfam and the World Food Program (WFP) of the United
Nations and other humanitarian partners we work with).
Lastly, as we respond, let us keep reminding our policy makers of the old adage muvioyang
anirasuchedwakulowammaso! let us be proactive for tomorrow! It is our hope that the
next parliamentary sitting will take some time to seriously reflect on this flooding disaster and
its associated impacts in view of the numerous recommendations that CADECOM and other
likeminded stakeholders have made through various fora as far as resilient building policies and
acts are concerned.
Signed

Rev. Fr. E Chimombo


(Acting ECM Secretary General)

Mr. Carsterns Mulume


(CADECOM National Secretary)