The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) is constructing evacuation centres to host people displaced by disasters in five districts of Chikwawa, Balaka, Phalombe, Zomba and Mangochi.
The five districts were amongst the worst hit during the March 2019 Cyclone Idai-induced floods which displaced about 87, 000 people and affected a total of 15 districts and two cities. The displaced sought refuge in schools, churches and relations’ houses.
Speaking during a recent monitoring visit to the construction sites, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Malawi Programme Analyst for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, Sothini Nyirenda, said a total of US$2.3 million (about K1.7 billion) has been spent in the construction of the centres.
“We are using green construction materials and we are building the centres in very unstable places hence the need to invest in very strong reinforcements. We are using certified contractors and we have invested a lot in the sub-structure so that the centres remain intact and withstand any possible hazard,” said Nyirenda.
The department’s Mitigation Officer, Hanke Ndau, said the construction of the centres is being funded by the UNDP and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), formerly Department for International Development, and is expected to be completed by end November this year.
Ndau said the centres will ease pressure on education facilities, especially in circumstances where displaced households seek refuge in nearby schools.
Village Head Luwembe of T/A Chimwala, Mangochi District, said the centres offer a ray of hope for preservation of human dignity amidst displacement.
“I am delighted to learn that the centre will have separate apartments and sanitary facilities for women, men, boys and girls. In our case, we are surrounded by a number of rivers and flooding is inevitable during the rainy season. Floods leave a lot of people destitute and they have no option but to seek refuge in nearby church halls, mosques and schools, which have no facilities for hosting the displaced.
“In a church and school hall setting; men, women, boys and girls mix up, this compromises human dignity, halts the learning process and puts the girl child and women prone to sexual exploitation and abuse,” said Luwembe.