Malawi is particularly exposed and vulnerable to droughts and floods. As a result of climate change, the intensity, duration, and frequency of weather-related shocks are likely to increase. Furthermore, Malawi is located within the great East African Rift Valley, an area prone to severe and frequent earthquakes.
Malawi is highly exposed to the negative financial impacts of natural disasters, driven by high hazard levels and economic dependence on agriculture. Agriculture generates around 80 percent of total export earnings and employment. A 2009 earthquake in the East African Rift Valley impacted the district of Karonga and caused damages of approximately $13.6 million. The disaster resulted in widespread business interruption for thousands of displaced agricultural producers. In 2015, the double shock of unprecedented flooding and a drought event reduced agricultural production and led to food shortages. According to a GFDRR-supported post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) of the 2015 flooding, the agricultural sector posed the largest recovery needs after housing and transport.
Malawi has taken steps to advance disaster risk management (DRM) and improve climate resilience. These include:
- Integrating DRM and climate change adaptation into the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (2011-2016); and
- Endorsing the National Disaster Risk Management Policy in 2015 during the flood response. This policy will help create an enabling framework to establish a comprehensive DRM system.
To further advance the DRM agenda, priorities include:
- Updating country building codes and land-use planning;
- Developing risk financing mechanisms; and,
- Strengthening institutional capacity and improving data management.
GFDRR has played a significant role in raising awareness and understanding of DRM in Malawi by providing evidence and trainings to government officials and enabling resilient recovery after disaster events. GFDRR’s engagement has informed large-scale World Bank investments of over $205 million in the country.
GFDRR’s engagement in Malawi began in 2008 with the publication of an analytical report identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of existing programs and practices. Since the report, GFDRR has supported the Government of Malawi in institutional capacity-building activities and targeted analytical studies. Two studies on integrating flood and drought risk reduction with the country’s development policies and strategies influenced a $125 million World Bank project that is improving land and water management in Malawi’s Shire River Basin. The project is expected to benefit 430,000 people.
GFDRR has also supported assessments following major disasters to help the Government of Malawi leverage support and better understand damage, loss, and resilient recovery. Following an assessment of the 2009 Karonga earthquake, demand was created for GFDRR-supported activities to strengthen data for preparedness and recovery.
The 2015 PDNA following floods helped inform $80 million in World Bank financing to help restore agricultural livelihoods, reconstruct critical public infrastructure, enhance food security, and improve disaster response and recovery capacity. GFDRR has also helped the Government of Malawi develop a multi-sectoral post-disaster recovery framework for planning, financing, implementing and monitoring recovery and reconstruction. A 2016 PDNA for drought resulted in a similar multi-sectoral recovery framework and informed a $90 million World Bank project for drought recovery and resilience building.
In particular, the Government of Malawi has benefited from GFDRR’s technical expertise in open source risk data management. Since 2012, GFDRR has helped the government better identify its natural hazards through community mapping exercises. This data has been stored on the GFDRR-supported Malawi Spatial Data Platform, an open source platform that has been utilized by stakeholders following disaster events like the 2015 flooding.
GFDRR anticipates continued demand for:
- Tools for the maintenance of disaster risk data;
- Community mapping to enhance baseline information and inform community planning;
- Disaster risk financing and insurance;
- Support for the development of a safer schools program for seismic resilience; and,
- Support for the development of a drought recovery and resilience strategy.