Players in the climate change and Disaster Risk Management sector have described the recent disastrous Tropical Cyclone Freddy as a wake-up call on how the country can best engage in loss and damage conversations.
Speaking on the sidelines of a panel discussion on the management of loss and damage in Malawi Thursday afternoon in Lilongwe, Civil Society Network on Climate Change (CISONECC) National Coordinator Julius Ngoma said there are some climate change effects, which cannot be addressed through adaptation and mitigation.
According to Ng’oma, tropical cyclones, which have hit Malawi, have proved that the country has not done enough on disaster preparedness.
“As a country, we have not done enough in disaster preparedness of such hazards despite all the warnings from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs and Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services. We were supposed to take action from the first cyclone that affected the country if we were to avoid such consequences,” said Ng’oma.
Ng’oma, however, said CISONECC is taking government’s willingness to enact a disaster risk management bill positively since they have been advocating for it as the old Act only focuses on response not preparedness.
Concurring with Ng’oma, Dr. Isaac Tchuwa, a lecturer at the Malawi University of Science Technology (MUST), said disaster response is costing the country funds, which could have been channelled to other developmental activities if the country had the new DRM Bill finalized and enacted.
“The country does not have a special fund for disaster response. When disasters strike, like the recent Tropical Cyclone Freddy, the government draws resources for response from other budgetary allocations. We need to have a special fund for disaster preparedness, that is why we have been lobbying for the DRM Bill to be finalized,” said Tchuwa, adding that there is a need to empower District Councils and communities in disaster response.
Tchuwa also suggested a better way to document and incorporate indigenous and traditional knowledge systems with science in the country’s approaches in addressing loss and damage.
While sharing her experience on loss and damage with tropical cyclones that hit the country, Enifa Malembo from Traditional Authority Mwambo in Zomba said a lot of people from her area have lost their property, crop fields, livestock, and lives due to the cyclones.
Malemba added that Lake Chilwa has overflooded, making graveyards inaccessible, and forcing communities to bury their loved ones in other villages.
“Currently, Lake Chilwa has overflowed with the rains we have been experiencing in Zomba. We can’t even access graves in our areas because there is water everywhere. Instead, we use boats to cross the lake to ask permission from leaders in nearby villages so that we can use their graveyard to bury our relatives,” lamented Malemba.
Malemba however said people in the area were prepared for the disaster as they were warned through indigenous knowledge.
Though it sounds like a new area, loss and damage discussions started in 1991, with only a green light during the Conference of Parties (COP27) Summit in Egypt where delegates agreed to have a loss and damage fund.
The government of Scotland has become the first country from the global north who are said to be heavy polluters to finance loss and damage in the country through CISONECC, Trocaire, Church Action in Relief and Development (CARD), CADECOM Zomba and Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).