Over the past five decades, Malawi has experienced more than 19 major floods and seven droughts, and these events are increasing in frequency, magnitude and scope over the years. Flooding was particularly severe in 2015, killing over 250 people and displacing 230,000 others. Over 600,000 people were affected. And now the country has developed a 72 hour alert period – flood early warning system. The system is connected to a server that is designed to send automated messages to key persons in the line departments where the resulting information will be better disseminated to the affected populations.
The early warning project dubbed scaling up the use of Modernised Climate Information And Early Warning System (M-CLIMES) – is a partnership between the government of Malawi and the United Nations Development Programme – UNDP. Project coordinator from the UNDP, Ted Nyekanyeka said the system will help minimize the losses that come with floods and help save lives. “We expect that when we receive rains during this and the coming seasons, the system will be recording rainfall levels and if there are thresholds being surpassed in danger zones, the system will capture that information which will then be used by relevant authorities to make decisions based on the forecast,” explained Nyekanyeka.
The project is based along the rivers Bua and Linthipe in the central region, which are a major source of floodwater in Malawi. Principal Hydrologist in Malawi’s Department of Water Resources, Hastings Mbale emphasized the need for involvement of community leaders at all levels if efforts being made to reduce and mitigate disaster impacts are to materialize. “These (efforts) can best be championed by the people themselves hence calling them here to make them aware and also familiarize them with the system so they know exactly what is going on,” said Mbale.
The new system will be used in complementarity with indigenous forms of early warning and community leaders along the said rivers have been given a responsibility to observe the hydrological monitoring stations for any defects that may cause inefficiencies. Apart from the flood warning systems, the M-CLIMES project has also installed 8 lightning detectors across the country and weather stations to monitor lake weather conditions and water quality.