Withstanding the impacts of Cyclone Freddy

April 17, 2023

Building Better and Stronger, without leaving anyone behind

UNDP Malawi

The key principle of ‘Leaving No One Behind’ seeks to ensure  that all individuals and groups, regardless of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability or socioeconomic status are able to participate in and benefit from development activities. 

Over the past years, the elderly population in Malawi has been facing increasing human rights violations, extreme poverty and inadequate social protection services, which affects their ability to live a life of dignity. The elderly community living in flood-prone areas are even more vulnerable because of their limited mobility, and pre-existing health conditions such as disabilities, poor health, dementia, and other mental health problems. Mobility restrictions mean they are less likely to respond to flood warnings. 

To address these issues, UNDP Malawi and its partners are working to ensure their safety and well-being during and after floods.   

Margaret Mulenga is an 86-year-old woman from Siluzu area in the district of Zomba, one of the flood-prone areas in the southern region of Malawi.  In 2019, she was rendered homeless by Colone Idai that destroyed her house and all her belongings 

In 2020, Habitant Humanity, with support from UNDP, constructed a disaster-resilient house for Margaret under the Inclusive Recovery Project that withstood the impacts of the recent Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which has displaced over 500,000 people (please check the number)  in the Southern region of Malawi. 

Her resilient house stands as a perfect example of the importance of investing inlasting solutions for communities at risk of disasters in the plight for disaster risk reduction. 

Margret’s daughter and caretaker, Modestar Yohane explains how the house has helped them have a permanent shelter, even after the project ended. “This is the 3rd year of us living in this house, and every year people are losing their homes. As I speak now, there are hundreds of families in schools and churches, because they lost their houses. The bridge up the road is also gone, but our mother’s house is still standing,” she said. 

Modestar also acknowledges that the design of the house and the toilet makes it easier for her to move her mother, who requires a wheelchair but cannot afford one. 

In his remarks, UNDP Resident Representative Shigeki Komatsubara said: “Disasters trap people in poverty and erode development gains. Although we cannot control the occurrences of natural hazards, it is possible to reduce the impact. We are therefore calling upon all sectors that as we work together to recover from the impacts of Cyclone Freddy, and we must invest in lasting solutions and build back better. 

The Inclusive Recovery Project which was implemented with funding support from the Governments of Japan and China supported the construction of disaster-resilient houses that reduced the vulnerability of the most vulnerable people to the impacts of flooding.  The project also supported the restoration of damaged irrigation facilities, construction of community markets and water points, and provided training to community artisans and Government officials in disaster-resilient building technology.