A joint press conference held on 30th December in Lilongwe on the country's state of preparedness by Departments of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA ) Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) has sent a warning shot to citizens living in flood-prone areas to immediately vacate to uplands.
Climate experts alert follows a looming cyclone Chalane which made landfall in Mozambique Wednesday morning and will trigger heavy rains over Malawi.
Chalane originated from the Indian Ocean particularly in the eastern side of Madagascar on 28th December and is moving westwards passing Mozambique leading to Zimbabwe and may also hit Botswana according to the latest real time satellite information issued by DCCMS.
The cyclone movement according to DCCMS puts Malawi on medium to high risk as the country is expected to receive non stop rains for the next 7 days which will result in flooding.
DCCMS director Jolam Nkhokwe observed that models run so far indicate the whole country will be affected but severe impacts are expected in the Lakeshore districts of Nkhata-Bay, Nkhotakota, Salima, Mangochi and Nsanje and Chikwawa in the lower shire.
According to Nkhokwe they have intensified issuing of early warning messages through radio stations and local structures.
Meanwhile, DODMA director James Chiusiwa has confirmed the disaster response mechanism has been activated at both the national and local levels to reduce the loss of property and lives when the cyclone strikes.
In 2019, 60 lives and property worth billions of Kwacha got lost to the effects of Cyclone Idai.
Chiusiwa informed the media that all relevant clusters focusing on search and rescue, coordination, shelter, health and sanitation, agriculture, communication, education have been meeting virtually and physically mostly to strengthen the county’s level of preparedness.
The Airforce is on standby, search and rescue teams are training and sensitising locals in Chikwawa and Nsanje. Yesterday, all district commissioners and chief executive officers for the four city council held a virtual meeting to align preparedness actions and it was pleasing to note they are busy organising teams and had already started sending early warning messages to the people using mobile vans, community groups, community radios and WhatsApp groups” said Chiusiwa.
“The Airforce is on standby, search and rescue teams are training and sensitising locals in Chikwawa and Nsanje. Yesterday, all district commissioners and chief executive officers of the four city councils held a virtual meeting to align preparedness actions and it was pleasing to note they are busy organising teams and most of them had already started sending early warning messages to the people using mobile vans, community groups, community radios and WhatsApp groups” Chiusiwa apprasied the press.
The released press statement shows that 23 community radio stations are airing early warning messages and over 4 thousand early warning slots for different disasters will have been aired by March next year. Chiusiwa underscored the important role of the media in disseminating early warning alerts as key in reducing loss of lives and property. He therefore urged all media professionals to maintain professionalism and stay vigilant in this period.
DODMA has also reported that districts are facing financial constraints to scale-up preparedness activities but its representatives assured the press the matter is being looked into with urgency.
The humanitarian relief institution, Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations are part of the different clusters tasked with differentiated responsibilities.
The cyclone will hit at a time when the country has just started experiencing a resurgence of Covid 19 cases after months of registering a steady decline in new cases. Malawi is also simultaneously battling with Typhoid fever outbreak in the Southern district of Neno which has already killed 5 within 14 days and over 50 people tested positive.