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reduce poverty in Malawi
In 2016, about 51 percent of Malawians lived in poverty, an improvement from 65 percent in 1997. Still, with more than 80 percent of the population employed in the agriculture industry, frequent droughts and floods are major issues that devastate farmers and Malawi‘s economy. Keep reading to learn how irrigation projects are working to improve the situation of poverty in Malawi.

Flood Control and Irrigation Systems

Flood control and irrigation systems funnel floodwater into areas of storage for future use. One system is diversion canals, such as the Red River Floodway in Winnipeg, Canada. The diversion canal prevented 10s of billions of dollars in damage since 1968 and is the second-largest earthmoving project after the Panama Canal. Diversion canals are artificial floodways that send floodwater to ponds, rivers, reservoirs and irrigation systems. Most farmers do not relocate unlike the displacement that a dam causes to locals in the dam’s region. Although the Red River Pathway is a highly ornate design, a basic diversion canal helps indirectly reduce poverty in Malawi and benefit those that crop-damaging floodwaters affect.

The pathways direct flooded water away from homes and crops in order to flow into rivers, ponds and artificial lakes. The plan is to use collected in the future. The pathways directing floodwater that destroy homes and land are a long-term solution to floods and droughts. The downside to these pathways is the unknown cost of infrastructure necessary to accomplish this system as no one, including Malawi, has proposed or implemented major developments in the country.

Infrastructure Development

A prerequisite to water management is infrastructure development to provide stored water from floods to irrigation systems. Pipes allocate water to farmers, whether above or below ground and irrigation systems, such as surge flooding, bring a simple solution to irrigation for a country where only 9 percent have electricity. Surge flooding is a system of gradually releasing small amounts of water into the land. This allows for better infiltration and less runoff.

Malawi relies heavily on charities and countries for aid, and developmental progress has been slow. The country ranks as one of the least developed countries. Investment in the county’s infrastructure could reduce poverty in Malawi, help the economy grow and diversify into other areas besides agriculture, such as the energy, telecommunications, banking, manufacturing, information technology and tourism sectors. Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima has been Vice President of Malawi since 2014 and stated a need for change in not only investment in infrastructure development, but also many other areas that are undeveloped. He understood that half of all Malawians, particularly women in rural regions, are in extreme poverty and that an emphasis on development is the key to the countries future success.

Climatic Effects on the Economy

Climatic changes frequently affect Malawi, though it receives support externally. Recently, the World Bank donated $70 million to Malawi to help it recover from Cyclone Idai, yet external aid is simply a short-term solution. Improving infrastructure to combat climatic changes, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, supports the people of Malawi that have crops that natural disasters easily damage. Floods and droughts destroy crops in which more than 80 percent of Malawians rely on for food and a meager income. One solution to reduce the cycle of flood, drought and famine is through an intelligent design implementing irrigation and flood control across Malawi.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai and Health Crisis
With winds equivalent to a category 3 hurricane and storm surges surpassing 20 feet, Cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique in the early hours of March 15, 2019. One of the most powerful storms to ever hit Southern Africa, Idai left a trail of destruction and displacement, turning life upside down for residents along the coast. Now, months later, communities throughout the region continue to cope with the aftermath.

Effects of Cyclone Idai

What is now 2019’s deadliest weather event, the latest figures put Idai’s death toll at 847. The storm left millions of people affected, thousands displaced, entire communities in shambles and thousands of hectares of crops destroyed. As authorities continue to unpack the extent of the damage, the need for increased public health initiatives is evident. With the floods triggering widespread water contamination across the region, cholera and malaria outbreaks are becoming shockingly prevalent.

Perhaps Cyclone Idai afflicted Mozambique the most, where Reuters News reported that it killed nearly 600 people and destroyed more than 110,000 homes. In Beira, home to roughly 500,000 people, sweeping power outages and water contamination has made the city a hotbed for disease outbreaks. “The supply chain has been broken, creating food, clean water, and healthcare shortages,” says Gert Verdonck, the Emergency Coordinator for Doctor’s Without Borders (MSF) in Beira. “The scale of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Following the storm, MSF quickly scaled up operations in Beira and other cyclone-stricken areas of Mozambique. With roughly 146,000 internally displaced persons seeking refuge in 155 camps across the country, MSF has launched an enormous relief effort. Dispatching emergency response teams to communities in need, MSF is working to implement vaccination programs and distribute food, water and medical supplies throughout Mozambique. Yet the scope of the damage is proving to be a difficult challenge for authorities and relief organizations. Treating over 200 cholera cases daily, MSF is calling on the international community to step up.

The World Health Organization and Cholera Vaccines

Also integral to relief efforts, the World Health Organization (WHO) is spearheading a massive vaccination program aimed at fighting the recent outbreaks. Through partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations Gavi and UNICEF, the WHO facilitated a shipment of almost 1 million cholera vaccines that arrived in Beira on April 2, 2019. A day later, a plane carrying 6.7 tonnes of medical supplies – essentials like medicine, stretchers, clean bandages and disposable gloves – landed in the coastal city. Opening an additional 500 beds and seven cholera treatment centers across cyclone-stricken Mozambique, the WHO is hoping to stifle water-borne illnesses in the region.

Despite valiant efforts from the WHO, MSF and other aid groups, the need for more funds and resources is evident. On April 1, the WHO requested an additional US$13 million to address communities affected by Cyclone Idai. With local authorities in Mozambique overwhelmed and underequipped to handle the fallout from Idai, the WHO is seeking to lead the charge, establishing response coordination at the national and provincial levels. Annual health care and aid expenditures in Mozambique are almost five percent below the global average, making foreign aid and nongovernmental relief organizations a vital piece of the recovery process.

An International Response

While some experts initially criticized the sluggish international response to Cyclone Idai, the global community has since placed considerable emphasis on relief efforts. Countries like Turkey, Botswana, Brazil and many more have supported Mozambique, allocating emergency funds and sending military assets to facilitate food, water and medicine distribution. Although combatting the cholera outbreaks and rebuilding communities that the storm devastated will be a stout challenge, the international response is promising. The response to Cyclone Idai indicates an international community both capable and willing to respond to natural disasters that impact the developing world.

– Kyle Dunphey
Photo: Google

Poverty in Mozambique

On March 14, 2019, a massive storm made landfall on Mozambique’s coast bringing heavy rains, flooding and chaos. The storm hit Beira, the fourth largest city in the country, hardest. With winds blowing over 105 miles per hour and torrential rains following it, Cyclone Idai became one of the most destructive storms in the past few years. Shortly after, Cyclone Kenneth struck the northern part of Mozambique with 140 mph winds and even heavier rainfall, creating more damage to the infrastructure in the region. Severe weather has affected all aspects of life in the country, and in particular, those living in poverty in Mozambique.

Mozambique is one of the poorest nations in the world with a GDP per capita of roughly $502. Although the poverty rate decreased from 59 percent to 48 percent, inequality still exists in the region between urban and rural areas. According to the World Bank, roughly 80 percent of poor people in Mozambique live in rural areas. Extreme weather conditions like cyclones or flooding exacerbate these inequalities. Because of this, the aftermath of these harsh storms more heavily affect people living in poverty.

Four Ways Extreme Weather Affects Poverty in Mozambique

1. Extreme Weather Destroys Local Infrastructure: Cyclone Idai caused more than $1 billion in damage to infrastructures like roads, bridges and dams in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The storm destroyed roughly 100,000 homes and one million acres of crops as well and it heavily damaged 90 percent of the infrastructure in the port city of Beira upon impact. Hospitals, schools and business could not withstand the storm’s high wind speeds, even though people built them to hold up against 75 mile-per-hour winds.

Many cities in Mozambique did not have the resources to combat these storms, making the likelihood of the preparedness of rural areas for these disasters significantly lower. For the most part, solving the issue of poverty in Mozambique came second to disaster relief. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment stated that the country would need $3.2 billion for reconstruction and recovery efforts. Thankfully, however, developing partners have already pledged up to $1.2 billion to help begin the process of recovering the lost infrastructure.

2. Extreme Weather Displaces Citizens from Their Homes: The storm affected roughly three million people, and about 1.5 million were children. Just outside of the city Pemba, the destruction of mud houses forced roughly 15,000 people to move to overcrowded shelters or stay outside. This displacement made relief efforts even more difficult and urgent. As the storm stranded many people outside of their homes, they required more time to administer survival equipment and begin rebuilding processes. Many rural citizens in Mozambique will not only have to rebuild their entire home, but also have to handle the economic burden of the loss of their arable land.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been working tirelessly and assisted more than half of these people in isolated and urban areas. The number of people living in shelters in the Sofala Province decreased from 16,600 people to 12,812 people in seven days. Although it is a slow process, these relief efforts are making a significant impact.

3. It increases the spread of diseases: One of the major effects of the two most recent cyclones has been the increase of cholera cases spreading across the country. Due to contamination of clean drinking water by flooding, there are reports of over 3,000 cases in Mozambique alone. Many shelters became very crowded after these natural disasters, which only increased the probability of cholera and other diseases like malaria to spread.

Luckily, there was a massive campaign by UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and other relief agencies to vaccinate people against this outbreak. These organizations distributed around 900,000 doses of the vaccine to high-risk areas around Beira. However, this outbreak heightened the effects of extreme weather and had a dangerous effect on the lives of many people.

4. It Halts Agricultural Production: A large part of Mozambique’s economy revolves around agriculture. This industry contributes to more than a quarter of its GDP and employs roughly 80 percent of its labor force. This leaves the country’s economy very susceptible to extreme weather damages. When disasters hit, they impact the poorer populations living in rural areas the most.

Cyclone Idai destroyed 50 percent of the country’s annual crops, which are the main source of income for a lot of people. If extreme weather patterns of this force continue, a food scarcity crisis might begin in the country, and the economy might suffer those effects as well. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been adamant about focusing relief efforts in Mozambique as a top priority. FAO has called for $19 million to support heavily affected regions for three months to resume food production and assist fishing communities. By fulfilling this request, these areas can begin the process of rebuilding these vital industries.

For years, poverty in Mozambique has been a persistent problem for many people living in rural areas. Recently, extreme weather events have become increasingly more powerful and destructive. Various organizations are providing relief efforts that make a huge difference in the region such as the U.N.’s International Disaster Relief System and the United Nations World Food Programme. However, rebuilding efforts from this cyclone are far from over. Disaster preparedness is now becoming a focus for the government regarding infrastructure improvements. In order to end poverty in Mozambique, the country must use better techniques to protect its citizens and the land they depend on.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr