The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) has called upon councils in the country to end the dependency syndrome that has greatly affected communities, leading them to rely on government and development partners for survival especially when disasters occur.
Speaking in Nkhotakota during an engagement meeting with the council on disaster risk management (DRM) and state of disaster preparedness, Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs, Charles Kalemba said communities have gotten used to handouts as a way of living.
Kalemba said councils have instilled a spirit of laziness in people as they have made them believe that government and development partners are there to provide humanitarian aid no matter what.
“The department has noted with great concern that communities exaggerate disasters to attract more relief items in their areas which has had a huge effect on the country’s economy. The media too, sometimes, give people wrong information.”
“For example, we got an alarming report that many houses in Mzuzu City had been affected by flash floods and that many were made homeless. DoDMA rushed to appreciate. We were so shocked to note that what was reported on was not what was actually on the ground. Only two houses were affected, and these houses in question were constructed along the river bank,” said Kalemba.
He said people have illegally constructed along Lunyangwa river risking lives and when the council comes in to sensitize and ask them to move to safer places, they obtain court injunctions yet when disasters occur, they want the same government to come in and assist.
“The construction along banks is on its own a disaster in waiting. Councils have been served with court injunctions restraining them from demolishing the illegal constructions. When a disaster occurs, the same people who obtained court injunctions are the first ones to make noise on social media, calling for humanitarian aid,” he said.
He said councils need to be vigilant and call a spade by its rightful name if they were to enforce laws that prohibit people from constructing in disaster prone areas so that lives are protected.
He said councils, through District Civil Protection Committees(DCPCs), need to prevent illegal constructions but also guide Village Civil Protection Committees (VCPCs) and Area Civil Protection Committees (ACPCs) on safer house construction so that people build to last.
“It is high time we started responding to real needs and not man-made disasters that can be avoided. We need to think progressively. Therefore, I am asking councils to map areas that are prone to floods, food insecure and come up with programmes that will build resilience of the communities,” he said.
On his part, Acting District Commissioner for Nkhotakota, Ben Tonho commended DoDMA for working towards building a resilient nation.
“On behalf of the council and the DCPC, let me thank DoDMA for the commitment towards building a resilient nation as we have been challenged beyond what we envisioned,” said Tonho.
He said that if councils were to follow the commissioner’s remarks, soon Malawi may become a food secure and self-reliant nation.
“It is true that the beginning of a self-reliant nation is in people’s commitment but it is the responsibility of us councils to invest in sustainable solutions such as irrigation farming,” he said.
DoDMA has been engaging councils to appreciate the status of disaster preparedness. A recent report by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services on the 2021/22 rainfall seasonal forecast indicates that the country will experience normal to above normal rains which might trigger the occurrence of floods in some areas.
The picture shows part of the proceedings during the meeting with Nkhotakota District Council.