Delayed relief responses to ease the plight of survivors of natural disasters have prompted some members of Parliament (MPs) to push for the establishment of a special disaster vote to fast-track reaction.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday in his contribution to the proposed K2.8 trillion 2022/23 National Budget, Mulanje Bale MP Victor Musowa (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) said when disasters strike, it takes time for authorities to access funding because the request for disaster funding goes through the Miscellaneous Vote.
He said the process requires the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) to apply to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to access the funds, thereby delaying response.
In an interview later, Musowa said the processes required to access the funds worsen the plight of the survivors who suffer before getting support.
He said there was need for each local council to have readily available funds to respond on time when disasters hit.
Musowa said disaster-prone districts should be allocated more funding.
He said: “The only amount that we give for disasters is covered in a vote called Miscellaneous. This vote has no audit. This vote is not allocated to anyone. It is just out there. You do not have anyone in control of this vote.
“Our national budget, as it stands, does not cover disasters. So, we need a specific vote for disasters because the disasters are part of us and are happening anytime.
“We need a vote for disasters and this money should be channelled to local councils. The DC’s [district commissioners] office should be in charge of this amount. My proposal is K100 million for every district in Malawi.”
He also suggested procurement of speed boats to be used in evacuations and searching of people that have gone missing when floods hit, especially for disaster-prone areas.
Dodma spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula said in an interview the department supported the proposal for more funds as stated by the MP, but not the reasons indicated for it.
He said: “As a department, we need to carry out disaster risk reduction [DRR] interventions such as construction of dykes, river dredging and others which have no budget under Dodma at the moment. DRR interventions will minimise disaster impacts and, therefore, cut on financial needs for responding to disasters.”
Khamula said Dodma supported the MP’s suggestion on the procurement of speed boats.
Earlier yesterday, several MPs asked Ministry of Agriculture to act with speed and provide survivors of Tropical Storm Gombe with food items.
Zomba Chisi MP Mark Botomani (DPP), standing under Standing Order 14, informed the House that due to the heavy rains induced by the storm, people in his constituency lost their crops.
He said: “Let me inform the Minister of Agriculture that people of Zomba Chisi will be affected by hunger. We are appealing for urgent relief aid for those who have been affected.
“The people need food, shelter, kitchen utensils and other items for them to be comfortable. My appeal to Dodma is to consider us as soon as possible on these items.”
The legislator further asked the ministry to consider helping the affected households with seed and fertiliser for the families to grow crops when the rainy season is over.
Chitipa South MP Welani Chilenga (DPP) said Dodma needed to have a vote in Parliament for it to be working efficiently.
He said: “This House is not helping Dodma. We have talked about this for a long time now. As long as government does not bring the Disaster Management Bill in Parliament, managing disasters will be hard.”
Phalombe Central MP George Million (independent) agreed with Botomani and called for the storm survivors to be assisted.
In his response, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said his ministry officials will be on the ground to assess the impact of the floods on crops in the country.
He said after Tropical Storm Ana, Dodma has been providing relief items to the victims and that government through various councils is receiving plenary reports on the impact of the cyclone.
Lowe said: “There has been an outcry on the delays in the provision of relief maize to victims. So far, Dodma has provided about 1400 metric tonnes and 1200 metric tonnes to victims in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts, respectively.”
He also hinted that through the World Food Programme, Dodma will provide victims of Tropical Storm Ana of Chikwawa and Nsanje with money through the Social Cash Transfer Programme to cover them in the month of March.
Tropical Storm Gombe, which had killed six people as of Monday, came barely two months after Tropical Storm Ana caused havoc in the Shire Valley, resulting in floods which killed 46, affected 995 072 people and 221 127 households.