Some district councils in the country are calling for the decentralisation of the national emergency response in order to expedite the time government responds to disasters.
The sloppy response to emergencies has resulted into massive impoverishment of victims of natural calamities in the country.
An interview with district commissioners from districts who have experienced disasters this year has revealed growing dissatisfaction with the current setup.
“When there is an emergency we send our officers to assess the situation. After that we submit a report to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs. We wait for the relief items to arrive and that might take several days. Meanwhile the affected people suffer heavily. Unfortunately, we do not have resources at district level to cater for such emergencies,” said a source from one of the districts who have experienced floods this year.
Malawi News spoke to DC for Phalombe Atanazio Chibwana, Thomas Chirwa of Mangochi and Rodney Simwaka from Nsanje immediately after the districts had experienced floods a few weeks ago.
The list also included Charles Makanga of Blantyre where a raging storm blew off roofs of several houses in Machinjiri two weeks ago rendering people destitute.
After several days of inquiries from the concerned districts, victims had not yet received relief items while they sought temporary shelters in schools and prayer houses.
Malawi News has established that it takes between four to seven days before government come to the rescue of victims of various natural catastrophes.
Chief Relief and Rehabilitation Officer in the Department of Disaster Management Affairs Dyce Kapumula Nkhoma conceded the challenge that the process of emergency in the country faces but said it is being addressed.
For the department to start responding to any emergency it must receive a report from the District Commissioner of the concerned district.
“After receiving a disaster report from the Area Civil Protection Committee, district council sends an assessment team to the affected area to conduct a verification assessment.”
“The DC then sends a report to our department. Sometimes assessment by the district team is delayed due to several reasons including lack of resources. This ends up in further delays in the sending of emergency reports to us. In the end that affects the time of response,” he said.
He said plans are underway for government to introduce new strategies of managing disasters.
“The department, in collaboration with Ministry of Local Government, is exploring ways on how to decentralise disaster response. Disaster response requires more than just resources, therefore there is need for capacity development in terms of staff recruitment and training in disaster management. There is need for proper planning before the decentralisation can be effected,” said Kapumula Nkhoma.
Thousands of Malawians were left destitute after being hit by various natural disasters in various parts of this country.
Nsanje, Salima and Mangochi are among districts that are usually hit by floods each rainy season.