BY CHIMWEMWE NJOLOMA
FEBRUARY 5, MANA: Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) has said it will this year carry out a national risk assessment to enable the department in planning for and managing disasters.
DoDMA’s Chief Mitigation Officer, Stern Kita said when disasters occur, it becomes difficult for the department to know extent of the damage due to lack of a national disaster risk map.
He said the risk assessment would help communities and the country at large to benefit from any comprehensive risk management programme that may be developed from the process.
“Life, property and livelihoods will be saved from any resultant disasters from the identified risks. The country and communities will also be in a position to have effective disaster preparedness programmes,” Kita said.
Kita said the assessment would help in programme designing of any development that government wants to undertake.
“For example, when government wants to construct a road, they will need handy information on which areas are safe based on proper risk assessment so that we don’t build something and then tomorrow it gets affected by a disaster. This will contribute to development projects that are sustainable and effective,” Chief Mitigation Officer pointed out.
Kita added that the assessment is also in response to a call of moving out people from high risk areas to safer areas in areas where people get affected by floods each year.
“One of the challenges has been that we can’t just go and start relocating people because we are not sure of which areas are safe to settle. So once we conduct the risk assessment, we will be able to know which areas are safe and which ones are not and be able to relocate people from unsafe areas to places that are particularly safe for good,” he explained.
District Commissioner (DC) for Lilongwe, Lawford Palani said Lilongwe was one of the districts that stands out to benefit a lot from the assessment taking into consideration that it is now prone to disasters.
He said most people have been rendered destitute due to disasters that could have been avoided if there was information to help in designing of infrastructure because most of them got affected by strong winds due to poor planning.
Palani added that instead of helping the communities in disaster risk management, most disaster committees are idle because they lack proper information hence they fail to engage the communities in disaster related projects.
Executive Director for Civil Society Network, Julius Ng’oma welcomed the development saying the comprehensive risk assessment would take into account risks in various sectors and geographical areas including towns and cities.
He called upon government to collaborate with stakeholders and local communities since they have indigenous knowledge of various areas including risks and hazards in different areas and hence could be useful in identifying some of the risks and how to manage them.
“There is need for government to involve relevant stakeholders in the exercise because their skills and knowledge on various approaches will be useful,” Ng’oma observed.
Malawi was among other African countries that convened in Kenya on the disaster risk assessment and validation of roadmaps on improving the availability, access and use of disaster risk information for early warning and action.