Government told to fast track disaster risk management bill


Following the devastating effects of Cylone Freddy which has claimed lives of people in the country as well as damaged infrastructure, Civil Society Network on Climate Change (Cisonecc) has asked the Government of Malawi to fast track the enactment of the disaster risk management bill.

The bill has been overdue since the process started in 2015 and efforts to make it operational have proved futile.

Speaking in Lilongwe during a Panel discussion on Loss and Damage, CISONECC National Coordinator Julius Ng’oma said it’s high time the country passed this bill, saying the legislation will help people in flood prone areas to move to highlands and proper guidelines will be set in response to disaster management.

“We have been advocating for a new law in terms of disaster risk management because the old law which is 1991 act has always been looking at the response not the preparedness, not the risk management, not the hazard management but if we consider enacting the law the way we have seen to the draft I think that would be a good thing for now.

“Even though we are considering that element of enacting this because we have actually seen a disaster that has actually affected us, but if we could have done this a few years back we could have saved some lives already. So Government and Parliament should fast track the process of this bill,” said Ng’oma.

According to Ng’oma, it’s a positive thing that the government needs to move and have this disaster risk management bill enacted, but they also need more action beyond just enacting it.

“Because we will need implementation of such so that we can now start managing the risks, the hazards. We can actually put in place the early warning systems that can support but also force some of the communities to stay out of the mapped hazard or risk areas,” he added.

Ng’oma also expressed concern that Malawi has not done enough in disaster preparedness of such hazards despite all the warnings from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs and Department of Climate Change and Meteorological services.

“I think we have not been able to respond in a way that we are supposed to. The fact is that we have not also been able to prepare better. Preparedness in the sense that we have not been able to take some of the hazardous risks seriously to take some actions on some of the risks, early actions even though we were able to be given information.

“For example, as the cylone was developing we were not able to take that first action, to actually take those warning seriously and then take action,” said Ng’oma.

Ng’oma also noted that the Cyclone Freddy is a wake up call for experts in the country to start engaging in loss and damage conversations, saying Malawi been focusing on mitigation and adaptation but forgetting that at some point mitigation and adaptation cannot work when there are cylones.

“So this is a reminder to us as stakeholders but also to the country in general and even other countries as well, that we need to start thinking of how best we want to engage in the conversation around loss and damage because there are certain risks, there are certain hazards no matter what you do, you still have to remain in some residual risks that needs to managed,” said Ng’oma.

On his part, Dr. Isaac Tchuwa, a lecturer at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), said disaster response is costing the country funds that could have been channelled to other developmental activities, and if the country had the new DRM Bill finalized and enacted this could have never happened.

According to Tchuka , the country does not have a special fund for disaster response and when disasters strike, like the recent Tropical Cyclone Freddy, the government draws resources for a response from other budgetary allocations.

He added that there is a need to have a special fund for disaster preparednes and that’s why they have been lobbying for the DRM bill to be enacted.

The Government of Scotland has become the first country from the global north, which is said to be a heavy polluter to finance loss and damage in the country through CISONECC, Trocaire, Church Action in Relief and Development (CARD), CADECOM Zomba, and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

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