United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Rebecca Ada-Dontoh, has challenged UN agencies and the Malawi Government to adopt a demand-driven response to cyclone survivors, stressing that this is critical to ensuring that the survivors are receiving optimal support while in and out of the camps.
Ada-Dontoh made the remarks on Monday during a UN joint media visit to survivors of Tropical Cyclone Freddy at Bangula Camp in Nsanje.
Her remarks followed sentiments by the survivors that they receiving adequate support, highlighting sporadic food rations; lack of beddings; kitchen utensils and sanitary pads for the adolescent girls as being major problems facing the camp.
Since March 2023 when the disaster hit the area, UN has been implementing a health support programme on sexual and reproductive health.
Among others, the UN – through its World Health Organization – employed midwives and nurses who are providing free healthcare services at the camp.
And through World Food Programme (WFP), the organization has been providing food supplies to the survivors while UNICEF is supporting primary healthcare.
However, the survivors complained that the assistance they are receiving is not adequate. They accused the Government of Malawi of neglecting them.
“The government also needs us during elections. When disasters hit us, authorities at the seat of the government deserts us,” said one of the women who had been chosen to speak on behalf of the campers.
In her response, Ada-Dontoh said time had come when the government and its development partners should shift its response strategy to ensure the survivors get the best of the assistance.
She said the UN join media visit had been initiated to create a space for UN agencies and the survivors to engage and share notes, which should inform the best strategies for future response.
“We believe that our support can only bear the fruits if we hear from you first. Before and after the cyclone disaster, we had engaged our partners on how to respond to the disaster. We know that the support we give you may not be enough because resources are limited,” said Ada-Dontoh.
She disclosed that in addition to providing humanitarian support, the UN family will also be moving towards building the capacity of the survivors so that they are able to recover and build resilience.
“We know that when we give you fish and you finish eating it, you will still be dependent. But we must teach you how to fish so that you know how to catch fish by yourselves. Hence, we are now in the recovery phase to move people to spaces where they can have their own livelihoods and have more permanent shelters.
“Our plans are government plans because as UN, we work with the government on implementing plans, which include clearly identified needs for the survivors. So, it’s a big plan, but also it is based on the needs of the survivors,” said the UN chief in Malawi.