The impact of floods in Chikwawa through SDGs lens

Written by  McDonald Chiwayula

The torrential rains that hit a total of 14 districts in Malawi have left communities in Chikwawa more vulnerable to poverty.

Stephanos Foundation officials donating maize to flood affected people  in Chikwawa Stephanos Foundation officials donating maize to flood affected people in Chikwawa

Stephanos Foundation a Christian charity organization headquartered in Netherlands rolled out several projects in Chikwawa to ensure that communities are on a path to get out of poverty as in line with SDG goal number 1, ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’.


The UN states that ending poverty requires universal social protection systems aimed at safeguarding all individuals throughout the life cycle. In this regard Stephanos Foundation and its partners rolled out a Goat for Girls Project in Chikwawa in a bid to support economic livelihoods of the vulnerable communities. When the goats multiply, they can sell and support girl child education as well as meeting household needs. With the floods, some goats have died as houses collapsed on them while others have been stolen when the owners tried to run to safety.


According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Draft Country Programme Document for Malawi, which will run from 2019 to 2023, half of the population is classified as poor and lives on less than $1.90 a day. On this aspect, Johan Van Der Ham, Executive Director for Stephanos Foundation in Netherlands said a multi-faceted approach is required to support people of Chikwawa.


“Stephanos Foundation is much experienced in projects that enhance quality of life. There’s need for a holistic approach and Government should support NGOs efforts on the ground. The people need quality education, food security and economic empowerment. This is why as Stephanos we have an educational institution at Chilangoma, in Blantyre. Family Adoption Programmes and Voluntary Savings and Loans groups plus other initiatives to empower the vulnerable communities but with the disaster here in Chikwawa the efforts have been eroded and we need concerted efforts to support them,” said Ham.


For the country to be on track economically there’s need for  continouus production. However, the rural population of which ninety percent is already engaged in farming faces hunger often times because of unpredictability of the climate. Chikwawa being one of the districts highly prone to natural disasters has a great potential of becoming the food basket of the country. This is the more reason Stephanos Foundation established irrigation schemes in in the district to mitigate hunger.


The second goal of the SDGs advocates ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. The UN through its website also reported that in 2016, 815 million people worldwide faced acute hunger.


In 2016, one Margret Chafulumira was a thriving farmer at Katemalinga Solar Irrigation Scheme in Chikwawa and proudly informed this publication that through farm income she was managing to meet university needs for her son at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). In one night the story changed as her entire crop fields were swept clean including her house and livestock all gone with the floods.


Good old days in 2016, today this field of M.Chafulumira is flooded


Executive Director for Stephanos Foundation in Malawi, Clifford Kuyokwa bemoans the tragedy that has befallen Chikwawa saying this hampers efforts on food security.

“The floods have left communities we support here in a very difficult position. You see their crops have been extensively damaged and that means hunger. In the immediate term we are donating bags of maize but as a long term sustainable measure we would like to intensify the solar irrigation in all agriculture schemes that we support here. We have three schemes, one at Katemalinga, another at Dzinja and Kadzumba. All in Traditional Authority Maseya,” said Kuyokwa.


The devastating floods have totally or partially destroyed over 12,000 houses in the district rendering over 55,000 people homeless. This is cause for worry since this population is crammed in public schools thereby in the short term reversing the gains made on SDG 3.


The objective of SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all at all ages. In the current scenario chances are high of people suffering from Malaria, contracting Tuberculosis and HIV as they get squeezed in one place due to the calamity. High consideration should be placed on supplying food and nutritious food supplements, contraceptives and mosquito nets just to mention a few essentials.


In terms of education, the 55,000 people affected by floods in the district have disrupted learning as the most schools in Chikwawa have turned into evacuation centres. This means until the situation is properly managed classes will remain disturbed. While agenda 2030 also takes into account inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, about 460,000 children according to UNICEF Malawi have been affected by the floods and a high proportion of this figure which is school going remains out of school. This defeats the target to ensure that more than half of children and adolescents worldwide should meet minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.


On his part, the District Planning Director for Chikwawa, Douglas Moffat, said the situation is worrisome.


He said, “Since the rains are not over, some houses which survived the first tragedy are collapsing as days go by, thus increasing number of homeless people. This has a direct negative impact on education as classes remain disrupted.”


All things being equal communities in T/A Maseya especially women and girls were engaged in micro-economic activities to raise their income profiles. As earlier alluded to, the Goat for Girls Initiative was one of the strategies to transform their lives including the Village Savings and Loans which acted as a buffer for economic shocks. Project Coordinator for Stephanos Foundation Goat for Girls Project Happy Chiumia, told this publication that the floods have disrupted the initiatives thereby watering down SDG number 5: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls'.


Happy Chiumia, Coordinator Goat for Girls Project


“As of now I cannot give the exact magnitude of the deviation from the course. Bottom line most people engaged in these socio-economic activities are homeless and have to rebuild their lives from start. The statistics I have indicate that about 50 goats are missing due to the floods, and about 100 household beneficiaries’ houses collapsed while 32 household beneficiary farm fields were swept away by the floods. Most VSL savings made have been used to buy basic necessities such as food, clothes etc as most of these victims lost almost everything in the disaster,” said Chiumia.


In an interview with MBC, the DPD for Chikwawa sounded an alarm that Chikwawa could be hit with several diseases if there’s a delay in supply of water disinfectants and medical drugs. SDG number 6 envisages a picture of a world in 2030 and beyond where people have sustainable potable water and good sanitation. Meanwhile the impact of the floods in the short term has retrogressively impacted on this SDG.


“The water situation and sanitation is compromised. Having such high numbers at one place there’s need for intensive monitoring on sanitation. Secondly with the floods, the boreholes are pumping soiled water not healthy for drinking,” said Moffat.


The BBC reported that some evacuation centres in Mozambique are fast becoming cholera hotspots since the high numbers being kept don't tally with sanitation facilities and human waste is likely to contaminate potable water sources.


Much as the floods came unexpectedly, effectiveness of early warning systems has been faulted. On the same, the type of structures destroyed was by far not resilient enough to withstand the torrential rain, floods and strong winds.


Johan Van Der Ham & Clifford Kuyokwa consoling an elderly woman

in Chikwawa


All speakers addressing flood affected victims including the First Citizen, His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, notes that there’s need to scale up construction of climate resilient structures. President Mutharika said that his administration launched the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (DAHSP) in December 2014 to lessen impact of such calamities.


In line with SDG number 11, reducing vulnerability to disasters, as a country we should strive to build sustainable cities and communities that are inclusive, safe, and resilient. This calls for more affordable and lasting building materials such as cement and eco friendly bricks.


Stephanos Foundation has made a pledge to start supporting its flood affected beneficiaries in Chikwawa with long lasting building materials such as cement.


Currently, Cyclone Idai has claimed more than 200 lives in Mozambique, 139 in Zimbabwe and 56 in Malawi, officials said. Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi disclosed to the press that the death toll there could reach 1,000.


Women walk long distances and cross streams to get relief items 


Roads Authority (RA) has disclosed that it needs MK4.6 billion just to repair main roads and bridges that have been damaged due to incessant rains and floods which hit the country and more resources are needed to normalise livelihoods of people affected by floods such as Margret Chafulumila who needs more than help to reclaim her lost status as a thriving Chikwawa farmer. It is imperative then to start mobilizing more resources towards the cause while we analyse the impact of the floods in Chikwawa through SDGs lens.

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