Lilongwe, March 16 - The Government of Malawi, through a trilateral partnership with the People’s Republic of China and UNDP, initiated a joint initiative in 2016 to help communities take collective action to bring sustainable solutions to predictable floods that were affecting their livelihoods.
During a celebration convened in Salima today, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malawi and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Maria Jose Torres, together with the Ambassador of China to Malawi, His Excellency Mr. Shi-Ting Wang, and Malawi’s Commissioner for Disaster Management, Mr. Clement Chinthu Phiri, joined community members to mark the successful completion of new multipurpose evacuation centres and flood control structures owned, constructed and managed by these communities.
The trilateral partnership on disaster risk reduction was spearheaded by Malawi’s Department for Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), and directly benefits 23,000 people across Malawi. Four multipurpose evacuation centers have been constructed in Karonga, Mangochi, Salima and Nsanje districts, each with solar power, separate toilet facilities for women and men, separate kitchen facilities and storage space for relief supplies, and improved water access. During floods, displaced people often seek refuge in schools, churches, mosques and facilities that are not designed to host displaced communities. Through the trilateral partnership between China, Malawi and UNDP, six community-based organizations were competitively selected to receive financial and technical support to help them transform their ideas into action.
In his remarks during the celebration, Ambassador Wang noted the benefits of this successful trilateral partnership. “Drawing on China’s unique development path and valuable experience in lifting its own people out of extreme poverty and vulnerability to floods, this trilateral cooperation project with DoDMA and UNDP introduced a distinctive approach for sharing ideas, resources and knowledge.”
After intense flooding hit Malawi in 2015, affecting more than 1.1 million households and displacing 300,000 people, the country has embarked on multi-pronged approaches to disaster risk reduction and resilience building, including by working more closely with communities most vulnerable to flood risk. Through this partnership, the six community-based organizations mobilized people in the community to help construct the evacuation centres as well as check dams, dykes and other flood mitigation structures, relying on engineering services as needed from DoDMA and the Department of Water Resources. The centres will be used to preposition essential flood relief, while facilitating access to displaced populations during emergencies and allowing civil protection committees to use the centres as an operating base until central support can be provided by DoDMA.
Such initiatives prove that communities can bring durable solutions to their own development challenges. Speaking at the event, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malawi and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Maria Jose Torres, reflected on the benefits of this partnership. “There are many pathways to building Malawi’s resilience to shocks, and too often we perceive communities as passive recipients of assistance rather than empowered actors who can bring their own solutions. This trilateral partnership between Malawi, China and UNDP demonstrates what’s possible when community-based organizations marshal people around a shared vision and commitment to action to reduce flood risk.”
In his closing remarks during the event in Salima, the Commissioner for Disaster Management, Mr. Clement Chinthu Phiri, noted Malawi’s vulnerability to climate change and his concern about climate projections for the region which point to greater severity, and frequency of extreme weather events in the country. “Strengthening Malawi’s resilience to shocks is at the core of the new Malawi Growth and Development Strategy. To escape poverty, households need protection against recurrent shocks such as floods, and this trilateral partnership shows how we can tackle this challenge together.”