Malawi is prone to natural and human-made disasters, which include floods, drought, stormy rains, strong winds, hailstorms, landslides, earthquakes, pest infestations, diseases outbreaks, fire and accidents. The intensity and frequency of disasters have been increasing, in the face of climate change, population growth, urbanization and environmental degradation. In early March 2019, a severe weather system formed off the eastern coast of Mozambique and struck Malawi with heavy rain and strong winds. The system further intensified into Cyclone Idai and made landfall in Malawi on 14-15 March 2019. Cyclone Idai brought heavy and persistent rains which led to severe flooding across Malawi’s southern districts. According to the Government of Malawi’s figures, more than 868,900 people have been affected, including more than 86,980 displaced, with 60 deaths and 672 injuries recorded. In total, fifteen districts in southern Malawi have been impacted. The site assessments conducted by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) teams in the four districts with the highest displacements—Zomba, Nsanje, Chikwawa, and Phalombe— from 25 March to 6 April 2019, recorded that 110,110 individuals (24,887 households) were displaced throughout 103 sites. Almost all displacement sites are collective centers, where populations fled to existing structures such as churches or schools and are sheltering in and around these buildings. However, living conditions are quickly deteriorating, due to overcrowding and the lack of access to basic services.
With agriculture being the main source of livelihood for the rural population in Malawi, the heavy rains and floods have impacted agricultural activities. As fields are inundated, recently planted crops have been destroyed. Some districts such as Nsanje are already reporting food insecurity. According to DTM assessments, the primary need for displaced people is food, followed by shelter. Displaced people report the desire to return home as soon as the rains cease. However, their homes have been destroyed and they do not currently have the means to rebuild them. Until they are able to return home and re-cultivate their crops, the displaced population will be reliant on humanitarian assistance and forced to live in collective centers and spontaneous sites and endure substandard living conditions. According to the DTM site assessment, half of collective centers are located in schools, meaning that learners are unable to continue their education until displaced communities living in schools are able to relocate to another location.
In 2019, IOM aims to provide shelter support through a two-pronged approach. During the first phase, emergency shelter support will be provided to 6000 households. This will include households whose home areas are still under water and must continue to live in evacuation areas, as well as those who are able to return to their homesites but need transitional shelter solutions in their area of return, as well as NFIs. The second phase will be to provide more durable shelter support assistance to 2000 vulnerable families who are not able to rebuild or repair homes on their own. IOM will continue to Camp Coordination and Camp Management activities for cyclone affected populations. In order to ensure a more robust and targeted response by the humanitarian community, IOM will implement its DTM program to provide key information and critical insights into the situation on internally displaced and affected persons in Malawi. IOM is a member of the Shelter/NFI/CCCM Cluster, led by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the Malawi Red Cross. IOM will continue to work closely with the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to provide capacity building at national and regional level through a contextualized CCCM training package, and support to local coordination mechanisms. IOM is also a part of the Protection Cluster.
Note: IOM’s humanitarian response activities contribute towards the IOM Malawi Cyclone Idai Response Appeal.