El Nino expected to make Malawi’s lean season even leaner
By Anne Wanjiru
IFRC Senior Communications Officer
Almost every family in Malawi is a farming family, a source of great strength for the country’s economy. This was seen a few decades ago when the country was regularly exporting agricultural produce to neighboring nations.
However, this means most families have also been extremely vulnerable to climatic stresses and shocks.
"Year after year, it’s been getting harder to get good yields from farming and get a good earning,” says Martha Makaniko, a farmer from Chiwalo village in Mulanje. “We no longer rely on regular weather patterns. I used to get eight bags of maize from my field. Now I would be lucky to get two. I have prepared my land awaiting the rains but have no money to buy seeds or fertilizer."
When tropical cyclone Freddy hit Malawi in March 2023, Martha watched as her entire crop was washed away. Like thousands of other farming families, she not only lost her crops.
“My house collapsed,” says Martha, who is also ill and in need of money for medical assistance. “I stayed in the shelter for several months. I spent my entire lifesavings building a new house. This set me back. We eat nothing, but porridge made from raw mangoes.”
Boiled fruit and poisoned yams
People don’t normally boil fruit for food in Malawi, so Martha’s mango porridge is an indication that a lot of families are running out of choices. According to the Malawi government’s Vulnerability Assessment Committee Report, more than 4.4 million peopleare facing hunger.
The economic downturn, as well as the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have all exacerbated the hunger situation in Malawi.
In the last 18 months,Malawi’s currency – the Malawian Kwacha – has been devalued twice. This has caused inflation on everything, including critical supplies such as seeds and fertilizer.
Some farmers find it too expensive to manage their own farms, and decide to do piecework in other people’s fields, a common coping alternative among farming families that is also proving to be very competitive.
Those that cannot find any piece work at all will scavenge for wild yams or raw mangoes to boil and feed their families.
A variety of wild yams is poisonous, however, and the difference can be hard to tell. Fani Mayesu recently lost her husband and 19-year-old son after consuming poisonous wild yams.
“We didn’t know they were poisonous,” she says, with a look of disbelief. “My husband brought them, I prepared them, and we all ate. Immediately we begun getting sick and vomiting. My other 5 children and I recovered but not my husband and one son.”
El Nino’s first waves
According to forecasts, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. International and national Meteorological agencies say the upcoming 2023/24 rainy season (also known as the lean season when food supplies diminish) in Malawi is expected to be influenced by El Niño. In the past, El Niño conditions have been linked to a delayed start of the rainfall season, below-normal precipitation, and dry spells.
The Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) in its lean-season response plan will seek to prioritise highly affected districts. This is aimed at strengthening community capacity to cope with the food insecurity while sustaining other resilience building activities.
“We hope to not only address the immediate acute food security needs but to also respond to climate predictions through interventions such as distributing early maturing seed varieties,’ says Prisca Chisala, director of programmes and development at MRCS. “We also plan to support winter cropping and encourage crop diversification to adopt drought resistant crops to address the gaps in production.”
Red Cross response
Through the support of IFRC and partner National Societies, MRCS needs over CHF 3 million to help close to 100,000 people by:
• providing food assistance in forms of cash-based transfer, wet feeding in schools and in-kind support
• strengthening community resilience through promotion of livelihood and risk reduction,
• protection of all vulnerable groups from violence, sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect and ensure that human rights are respected.
“It’s critical that we support the farming family’s resilience to attain a harvest after this rainy season, otherwise we will see significant rise in hunger levels,” says John Roche, head of IFRC's cluster delegation for Malawi. Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“Time is of essence here to avert a worsening situation from the El-Nino predictions. Only a rapid, effective, and well-resourced response is urgently needed to mitigate the crisis from long-term impacts.”
Malawi: Tropical Storm Freddy floods
Tropical Storm Freddy ripped through southern Malawi on 12 March, bringing 300-400mm of rainfall in the first 48 hours alone. The rains brought sudden, violent and destructive flash floods and landslides which have caused extensive damage to, and in some cases completely washed away, homes, schools, health centres, agricultural lands and infrastructure. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Malawi Red Cross to meet urgent shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Together, our aim is to help 160,000 affected people recover in a safe and dignified manner, and help them improve their resilience to future shocks.
Our Resilient and Empowered African Community Health (REACH) initiative, in partnership with Africa CDC, aims to improve the health of communities across Africa by scaling upeffective, people-centred and integrated community health workforces and systems.
| Press release
Malawi: IFRC launches Emergency Appeal to respond to the effects of Tropical Storm Freddy in Malawi
Malawi, 21 March 2023 -After passing through Southern Africa for the second time this month, Tropical Storm Freddy swept through Southern Malawi on 12 March 2023, with strong winds and heavy rains leaving the affected districts in a state of disaster and affecting the power supply throughout most of the country. Tropical Storm Freddy is set to be the longest tropical system since 1994, having weakened and re-intensified seven times over the last month.
The Malawi government has declared a state of disaster in 10 southern districts that have been hardest hit by the storm. A large number ofpeople are reported to have been affected, of which 101,648 households (approximately 508,244 people) have been displaced with 534 camps set to accommodate the displaced, according to reports from DoDMA. The death toll, which is currently at 499 (as of 20 March 2023), is expected to rise as 427 people are still unaccounted for since some areas remain cut off due to relentless rain and fierce wind.
McBain Kanongodza, Secretary General for the Malawi Red Cross Society said:
“We are grateful to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for the support through this emergency appeal. This support will go a long way to help the survivors recover from the shock of Tropical Cyclone Freddy devastation.”
Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) is on the ground, with volunteers working in dangerous conditions, primarily conducting search and rescue by land, and in rescue boats. Volunteers are providing first aid and psychosocial support to those affected. Non-food items are also being distributed by MRCS to evacuation centres and hospitals.
John Roche, Head of IFRC’s Delegation for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe said:
“The destruction left behind by Tropical Storm Freddy, which has displaced large numbers is a major concern, as we are also tackling a widespread cholera outbreak at the same time. We need to respond fast and ensure people have access to clean and safe drinking water to ensure that cholera does not spread beyond control.”
The lack of sanitation and clean water sources, which increases the risk of contracting cholera, will be amplified after many homes have been washed away leaving displaced communities to be housed in camps. The number of people living in camps, may cause them to become hotspots for Cholera and waterborne diseases. In addition to risks of cholera, the floods have caused many communities to be cut off from food for many days, as well as causing widespread damage to farms, and death of livestock. Many of these areas were already suffering from significant food insecurity.
The IFRC and its membership has launched an Emergency Appeal seeking 6.0 million Swiss Francs, which will help the MRCS to assist up to 160,000 people over 5 districts, who have been affected by the severe impacts of Tropical Storm Freddy. Through the appeal, MRCS, and its partners with the IFRC will look to scale up their response to the impact of Tropical Storm Freddy. The response will focus on the immediate needs of families displaced and hosted in camps.
For more information or to arrange a media interview, contact:
In Malawi (IFRC):
Ella Mcsharry, +263 78 689 3350,
Felix Washon, +265 999 95 57 21, [email protected]
In Pretoria (IFRC): Robyn Lee Doyle, +27605031833, [email protected]
In Nairobi (IFRC): Rita Nyaga, +2541 10 837154, [email protected]
In Geneva (IFRC): Tommaso Della Longa, +41-79-708 4367, [email protected]
| Press release
Malawi: Red Cross scales up response to worst cholera outbreak in two decades
Malawi, 25 January 2023—Malawi is currently facing its worst cholera outbreak in two decades, with over 29,000 cases reported and more than 900 people dead. The Malawi Red Cross, in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and in-country partners—Danish Red Cross-led consortium and Swiss Red Cross—is scaling up its cholera response to assist over two million people.
Since the first recorded case in February 2022, cases have continued to spread, with all 29 districts affected. Cholera is now putting over 10 million people at risk, including more than five million children.
“Malawi Red Cross Society is committed to continue supporting the Government of Malawi in responding to the cholera outbreak and other health emergencies. We are grateful to the IFRC and other Movement partners for continued finance and technical assistance to the MRCS Cholera response plan,” said McBain Kanongodza, Secretary General for the Malawi Red Cross Society.
According to the Malawi Ministry of Health’s cholera update on 22 January 2023, over 29,364 cases and 960 fatalities were reported, leaving the fatality rate at 3.27 per cent, which is considerably higher than the acceptable rate of less than 1 per cent set by WHO.
The Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) is already providing lifesaving treatment at the community level by administering Oral Rehydration Therapy. Volunteers ensure that water supplies are safe and that sanitation facilities are working. They also go door-to-door to raise awareness on preventing the disease from spreading. With the rainy season underway, it is crucial that people take precautions to protect themselves and their families.
“We have been monitoring the developments on the ground since the first cases, and we are deeply concerned that this outbreak has taken a foothold in every corner of Malawi. We need to support the joint efforts of the MOH and Malawi Red Cross in their response to this devastating situation. As the outbreak worsens, partnerships are crucial to ensure lives are saved,” said John Roche, Head of IFRC’s Delegation for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The IFRC and its membership are launching an Emergency Appeal seeking 5.2 million Swiss francs, which will help the Malawi Red Cross reach a further 1,385,391 people in need of assistance. Malawi Red Cross and its partners with the IFRC aim to target 15 affected districts, with the core objectives being to prevent and control the spread of the outbreak, reduce morbidity and mortality due to cholera and improve the availability of safe water and sanitation facilities, through continued support to communities and district health offices.
For more information, please contact:
In Lilongwe: Felix Washon, +265 999 95 57 21, [email protected]
In Harare: Ella Mcsharry, +263 78 689 3350, [email protected]
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, [email protected]
In Geneva: Marie Claudet, +1 202 999 8689, [email protected]
National Society Investment Alliance: Funding announcement 2022
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services.
The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere.
This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022:
Burundi Red Cross
Kenya Red Cross Society
Malawi Red Cross Society
Russian Red Cross Society
Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Zambia Red Cross Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development.
In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019.
This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years.
The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said:
“We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale.
It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey.
2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.”
For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.
Menstrual Hygiene Day: #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination
Around the world, millions of women and girls* face stigma, exclusion and discrimination simply because of one perfectly natural bodily function: their periods.
Negative attitudes and misinformation about periods limit women and girls’ potential. Too often they miss out on education and employment—either due to a lack of hygiene facilities and products to easily go about their daily lives while menstruating, or because they are weighed down by fear of shame and embarrassment from their communities.
Women and girls’ safety is also at risk. Without proper hygiene facilities, women can be forced to go into the open to deal with their period needs—leaving them exposed to physical danger and psychological harm. And in extreme cases, period stigma has tragically claimed women and girls’ lives.
At the IFRC, #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination and to improving the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) knowledge, skills and programming of our National Societies.
We’re working to raise MHM standards across our network—both as part of our long-term water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes, but also during emergency response. Because periods don’t stop in an emergency!
We focus on three main areas:
Providing pads and menstrual health items as part of our relief assistance
Community engagement to demystify periods, educate women and girls on how to manage them safely, and challenge negative attitudes—especially among men and boys. This also involves advocating for more and better MHM activities with governments.
Setting up WASH facilities designed with the additional needs of menstruating women and girls in mind.
Many of our National Societies are already doing fantastic work in this area. Let’s look at some of them!
With support from Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Lebanese Red Cross has partnered with the IFRC, British Red Cross and consulting firm ARUP to develop inclusive and MHM-friendly latrines and bathing/laundering facilities. They focused on women living in informal tented settlements near the Syrian border.
Speaking to women in the settlements, Lebanese Red Cross teams learned that women mainly use disposable pads during their periods, or a cloth in an emergency, which they burn after a single use. Women explained if they had a safe, accessible and private space to use that was separated from men’s facilities and had discrete disposal methods, they would put their used pads in the bin.
Based on this feedback, the Lebanese Red Cross piloted technical designs for emergency WASH facilities that took these women’s needs into account. They developed a manual that can be adapted and used by other National Societies and partners—which includes recommendations of how to best engage with women and girls about their period needs in a sensitive and effective way. Click here to read more about the project.
Although menstruation is considered natural and a sign of maturity for women in Pakistan, it’s also seen as dirty, shameful and something to be dealt with in silence. Men are generally responsible for deciding on the menstrual health facilities and services offered to women and girls, but rarely involve or consult them on their needs.
The Swiss Red Cross worked with Aga Khan University in Pakistan to set up special MHM corners within hospitals—safe spaces in which women and girls could receive information and counselling about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. They ran pad-making sessions with men and women to raise awareness of good hygiene practices. And they identified influential ‘MHM champions’ who are now spreading this knowledge and tackling period stigma within their communities.
For many girls in Malawi, managing their periods continues to be a challenge due to a lack of access to information, sanitary products, and adequate WASH facilities—particularly in schools.
The Malawi Red Cross Society, with support from the Swiss Red Cross, conducted mixed-method research with more than 500 school students to understand girls’ and boys’ knowledge, attitudes and practices around periods.
They discovered that:
More than half of the girls they spoke to had never heard about menstruation before it started
Girls with increased knowledge used better MHM practices and skipped school less
Interestingly, boys’ increased knowledge about MHM was associated with higher levels of teasing, and with more absenteeism of girls during their periods
The Malawi Red Cross Society has since used this research to inform their work in MHM so it better meets girls’ needs. They’ve constructed female-friendly toilets in schools, produced reusable menstrual hygiene products, delivered training to teachers and parents’ groups and advocated for more menstrual health activities at the community and district level.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, transgender people in Argentina were found to be having difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene items. In close coordination with two local specialist organizations which support and advocate for transgender people, the Argentine Red Cross distributed hygiene kits which included sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups.
Transgender men provided recommendations and selected appropriate menstrual items for the kits. Distribution of the kits was accompanied with virtual workshops on sexual health and correct use of menstrual cups. The Argentine Red Cross also set up a health advisory line to offer psychosocial support to anyone who needed it.
Learning resources and more information about MHM:
Discover even more case studies from our National Societies’ MHM activities in this collection
Explore our wealth of practical guidance, tools and advocacy resources on menstrual hygiene on our dedicated WASH site here
Visit the dedicated WASH page on the IFRC website
Visit the global Menstrual Hygiene Day campaign page for more information about this year’s theme
Contact our Senior Officer for WASH in Public Health, Alexandra Machado, for any MHM-related questions: [email protected]
*We recognize that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and that not all women menstruate.
Empress Shôken fund 100th distribution announcement
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways.
The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, 169 National Societies have received 14 million Swiss francs. To mark the Fund’s 100th year of awarding grants, a short video was developed to highlight what the Fund stands for and showcase how it has supported National Societies through the years.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evident in the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier due to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 28 applications in 2021 covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 475,997 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Argentina, the Bahamas, Benin, Costa Rica, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam.
The projects to be supported in 2021 cover a number of themes, including youth engagement, disaster preparedness, National Society development and health, especially the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit the Movement as a whole.
The 2021 grants
The Argentine Red Cross is taking an innovative approach to talent management using new technologies. It will use the grant to develop a talent-management module to be implemented in 65 branches, enabling the National Society to attract and retain employees and volunteers.
The Bahamas Red Cross Society will put the grant towards building staff and volunteers’ capacities and expanding its network on five islands, with a view to implementing community- and ecosystem-based approaches to reducing disaster risk and increasing climate resilience.
The Red Cross of Benin seek to help vulnerable women become more autonomous. The grant will support them in developing income-generating activities and building their professional skills.
The Costa Rica Red Cross will use the grant to enable communities in the remote Cabécar and Bribri indigenous territories to better manage emergencies, holding workshops on first aid, risk prevention and emergency health care in connection with climate events and health emergencies, including COVID-19.
The Estonia Red Cross is working to build competencies in four key areas, including in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers. The funds will support the development of a volunteer database to help effectively manage information, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With widespread COVID-19 transmission in Georgia, the Georgia Red Cross Society is working to help national authorities limit the impact of the pandemic. It will put the grant towards promoting good hygiene and raising awareness of the importance of vaccination.
The Red Crescent Society of Islamic Republic of Iran is focused on building local capacity with youth volunteers by boosting small businesses in outreach areas. The grant will be used for training, capacity-building and development in local partner institutions, generating income for community members.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have affected how the Kenya Red Cross Society does its humanitarian work. The grant will be used to launch an online volunteer platform to encourage and facilitate youth volunteering.
The Malawi Red Cross Society must be ready to respond to disasters due to climate variability and climate change. The funds will allow the National Society to establish a pool of trained emergency responders who can swing into action within 72 hours of a disaster.
The Nicaraguan Red Cross is working to protect the elderly from COVID-19. The grant will be used in three care homes located in the municipalities of Somoto, Sébaco and Jinotepe to provide medical assistance, prevent and control infections, and promote mental health as a basic element of self-care through training and support sessions and other activities.
The Pakistan Red Crescent seeks to improve how it manages blood donations. The funds will enable the National Society to increase the capacity of its blood donor centre and raise awareness of voluntary unpaid blood donation by holding World Blood Donor Day in 2021.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for All project of the Philippine Red Cross aims to develop WASH guidelines and promote them in the community. The grant will be used for training and capacity-building around providing health services in emergencies.
In Romania, teenagers in residential centres are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence for a number of reasons, including a lack of both psychosocial education and staff trained in dealing with this kind of violence through trauma-informed care. The grant will enable the Red Cross of Romania to reduce the vulnerability of 60 teenagers in residential centres by increasing knowledge and aiding the development of safe relationships.
The South Sudan Red Cross is working to encourage young people to adapt to climate change by planting fruit trees. The grant will support this initiative, which aims to reduce the impact of climate change and increase food production.
In 2020 the Timor-Leste Red Cross launched an education programme aimed at increasing young people’s knowledge about reproductive health. The funds will be used to expand the programme – already active in five of the National Society’s branches – to the remaining eight branches.
The Viet Nam Red Cross aims to further engage with authorities and become more self-sufficient through fundraising. It will use the grant to build its personnel’s capacities by providing training courses on proposal writing, project management and social welfare.
Malawi Red Cross Society
| Press release
Immediate action needed as millions face hunger in Southern Africa, warns the Red Cross
Pretoria/Nairobi/Geneva, 12 December 2019 –Hunger is threatening the lives of 11 million people in Southern Africa due to deepening drought and in the region. Red Cross teams across Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are scaling up their response to emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity.
“This year’s drought is unprecedented, causing food shortages on a scale we have never seen here before,” said Dr Michael Charles, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Southern Africa cluster. “We are seeing people going two to three days without food, entire herds of livestock wiped out by drought and small-scale farmers with no means to earn money to tide them over a lean season.”
The countries with the most significant increase in food insecurity from last year are Zambia and Zimbabwe, with 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively suffering from acute food shortages.
Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have this year declared drought emergencies. In Eswatini, 24 per cent of its rural population is suffering from food shortages. The situation is set to worsen due to late or no rain in the region and crop production is down by 30 percent for the 2019/2020 harvest.
In October, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal in Zambia to bring relief to those most affected by the persistent drought and is now widening its appeal for emergency funding to cover a further four countries affected by unprecedented levels of drought and hunger.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement already has ongoing operations on food insecurity in Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe reaching 207,055 people (41,411 households). This newest appeal will broaden its reach to eight southern African countries and will target individuals not reached by other interventions in the region.
“There is a major gap in investment in resilience and community-level capacities in countries hardest hit, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini,” Dr Charles said. “As a humanitarian collective, we must take immediate action to respond to millions who face imminent starvation. Even more importantly, it is our responsibility to strengthen communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to the current challenges. Otherwise, we will never end hunger in the region.”
The IFRC is calling for 7.7 million Swiss francs to mitigate the food crisis in the region. The overall objective of the multi-country Emergency Appeal is to provide immediate food assistance and livelihood recovery support to the most affected households in the targeted communities for a period of 14 months.
Urgent action needed for countries in Southern Africa threatened by drought
All countries in the Southern Africa are currently experiencing pockets of dryness. Worryingly for the sub-region, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared state of emergencies due to looming drought. The United Nations Climate Action Summit scheduled for 23 September 2019 in New York, United States of America, presents a timely opportunity for urgent global discussions that will hopefully culminate inconcrete, realistic plans to address thedisproportionate impacts of climate change on developing countries.
Southern Africa is one of the regions most affected by serious impacts of climate-induced natural disasters. This year alone, a succession ofcyclonesandfloodshas already resulted in significant loss of life and assets in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and kept humanitarian organisations busy with emergency responses, as well as recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth were different in that they managed to attract global attention because they caused significant devastation during a short period. Climate change-induced natural disasters in Southern Africa are often invisible in the global media, even though they are protracted and threaten the livelihoods of millions. Even lower-level cyclones can cause devastating floods that are quickly followed by debilitating droughts.
Many national economies in Southern Africa are agriculturally based and as long as climate change mitigation strategies enshrined in existing globalpoliciesare not wholeheartedly implemented, a significant portion of the 340 million inhabitants of Southern Africa could be food-insecure in the long-term because of famine.
The increased mass movement of people from areas affected by climate-induced natural disasters is also more likely. Internal and external migration will necessitate greater coordination among humanitarian organisations to adequately support receiving communities and countries to respond to the added burden introduced by new arrivals.
The effects of food insecurity and mass movements are felt most by the vulnerable in our communities, such as the chronically ill and disabled, and women and children. They also place immense pressure on already strained health systems in many countries in the sub-region. With the necessary funds, the Red Cross Movement has the capability and is well placed to address some of the consequences. But urgent action is still needed on the climate change question.
Climate change is certain and evident. Its effects are being felt more in less developed nations, especially in southern Africa. Efforts for adaptation are essential not only to decrease the negative consequences but also to increase opportunities for communities to be more resilient in the long-term.
Countries in the sub-region are acting to decrease their response times to calamities and improve their communities’ readiness to mitigate impacts of natural disasters. Mozambique is the first country in Africa to have an Early Action Protocol approved; the protocol harnesses the power offorecast-based financingto ensure that humanitarian responses are more responsive and proactive. Malawi’s protocol is under review and Zambia’s is currently in development.
The need for humanitarian assistance in Southern Africa in the latter part of 2019 and into 2020 will be greater with the imminent drought. Notwithstanding ongoing local efforts to improve countries’ and communities’ disaster risk management practices and increase their resilience, global stakeholders have a responsibility to definitively act to reduce the need for climate change-induced disaster mitigation efforts in the most affected developing countries.
Originally published in the Southern Times Newspaper
Women are the agents of change for climate change in southern Africa
By: Dr Michael Charles
Today South Africa marks Women’s Day. Much like the women being commemorated for the march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, women in southern Africa today may well hold the same flint that lights a “new movement” – climate change.
Southern Africa is one of the regions projected to experience the most serious consequences of global warming and the El Niño effect. In 2019, we experienced one of the worst disasters the region has ever seen - Cyclone Idai ravaged communities in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and continue to rebuild their lives.
Urgent action is needed to increase the region’s preparedness for natural disasters. It is only a matter of time until the next disaster strikes. Being female often automatically means that personal susceptibility to sexual and domestic violence, rape and assault in emergency situations is significantly heightened. Women experience additional difficulties because they are typically responsible for sourcing water and preparing food; caring for children, the injured, sick and elderly; and maintaining family and community cohesion.
Tackling climate change is, undoubtedly, women’s business. They have a vested interest in avoiding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is time that humanitarian actors and policy and decision-makers mainstream gender in policy and practice. It is not a “nice to do”; it is crucial to making real and sustainable differences in the lives of affected people.
In 1956, 200,000 South African women declared that enough was enough and acted to defend themselves and the unity and integrity of their families from restrictive laws that required them to carry a pass to reside and move freely in urban areas.
Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock! was the rallying cry of that day, used to signify the women’s unshakeable and unbreakable resolve in the face of adversity as they marched to the Union Building in Pretoria, and sparked change in the course of South Africa’s history.
As countries in southern Africa ramp up their disaster risk management and humanitarian organisations work to strengthen community recovery and resilience, women in southern Africa should not just be considered victims and survivors who need special protection and assistance. They are forces for change who can be relied on to represent themselves within their communities and at the highest decision-making levels.
I am always inspired by the women I meet responding in disasters, most recently in Cyclone Idai. Women like, Sonia, a volunteer who was working long hours to support women in a shelter, displaced by Cyclone Idai or Flora, who was affected herself by flooding but was dedicated to helping her neighbours rebuild their homes and their lives.
Happy Women’s Day, South Africa. May the flame that was lit in 1956 and the fire of women’s empowerment and participation that was built over the decades rage on.
National Society Investment Alliance: First Funding Announcement
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) today announced the results of its first round of funding, with accelerator investments awarded to the Red Cross Societies of Lebanon and Ukraine, and bridge funding awards made to a further eight National Societies (Armenia, Colombia, Comoros, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia). Together this represents a combined total of nearly 1.5 million CHF.
Announcing the results of the first funding round, Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under-Secretary General for Partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Balthasar Staehelin, Deputy Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said:
“We are delighted to announce this first round of NSIA funding, the culmination of a process that has involved collaboration and cooperation from across the Movement, and demonstrates the demand and potential for investment in National Society capacity.”
To respond to the varied needs of National Societies, NSIA can award up to one million Swiss francs of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 Swiss francs over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from NSIA or elsewhere.
To date, NSIA has been supported by generous contributions from the governments of Switzerland, The United States, and Canada.
First Round of NSIA Funding
The first call for proposals received 48 applications from National Societies across all regions, with a range of contextual challenges and organizational development needs. In response, the NSIA Office conducted an independent and objective process of consultation and review, working with colleagues from the IFRC and the ICRC at the national and regional level, as well as the National Societies themselves.
The Steering Committee agreed that the first 10 National Societies that will receive bridge funding are: Armenia, Colombia, Comoros, Lebanon, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, Ukraine and Zambia. Lebanon and Ukraine will receive the accelerator funding in this first round.
The proposals from National Societies speak to a wide-range of needs, and are underlined by the desire to increase their sustainability, independence and ability to provide relevant services to vulnerable populations. Key themes across the applications include: efforts to increase financial sustainability, develop system and structures at the national and branch level, and improve governance and accountability.
Selected National Societies
The Lebanese Red Cross will use a substantial accelerator investment grant to strengthen its Project Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting (PMER), communications, and fundraising capacity with the aim of meeting more than 70% of its core services costs through local sources by 2023.
Similarly, the Ukrainian Red Cross Society will utilise an accelerator investment to develop its resource mobilization capacities, building on initial planning and analysis and helping the National Society respond to the ongoing crisis in the country.
The bridge grant will support the Armenian Red Cross Society to develop a resource mobilization plan, focusing on un-earmarked income generation that is urgently required to meet ARCS programmatic activity needs.
The Colombian Red Cross Society will receive bridge funding to help develop, test and implement new initiatives which will ensure regular income, strengthening the National Society in three crosscutting areas: communication and marketing, reporting and training.
There is a need for the Comoros Red Crescent to enhance staff core competencies with regard to governance and financial management. The bridge grant will therefore allow the development of an investment plan for the National Society to best use potential future investment.
NSIA bridge grant funding will enable the Malawi Red Cross Society to conduct a thorough and detailed assessment of potential national level income sources, subsequently developing an investment proposal to pursue the most promising.
It is expected that through the bridge grant implementation, the Namibia Red Cross will be able to resolve a number a of critical challenges by consolidating its financial statements and systems, increasing financial liquidity and developing a forward-looking strategy.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society will receive bridge funding to help explore the opportunities for developing commercial first aid services in the country, conducting a detailed analysis and developing a business plan for future investment.
The Uganda Red Cross Society will receive bridge funding to work with its operational network of 51 branches to consolidate and improve its first aid training, and explore the possibility to unlock this resource and generate national level income.
With several institutional changes needed within the Zambia Red Cross Society in order to achieve its development goals, a bridge grant will allow the ZRCS to undertake a midterm review of its existing strategic plan and developed and improved strategic and investment plan looking forward.
| Press release
Mozambique cyclone: “90 per cent” of Beira and surrounds damaged or destroyed
Beira/Nairobi/Geneva, 18 March 2019 — The scale of damage caused by cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying. This is the initial assessment of a team of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aid workers that reached the devastated city yesterday.
Jamie LeSueur, who is leading the IFRC assessment team into Beira, said the following after taking part in a Red Cross aerial assessment:
“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed.”
The IFRC team that arrived yesterday was among the first to arrive in Beira since Idai made landfall on 14/15 March. With Beira’s airport closed, the team drove from the capital Maputo before taking a helicopter for the last part of the journey. Roads into Beira have been cut off by flooding.
While the physical impact of Idai is beginning to emerge, the human impact is unclear.
“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible,” said LeSueur.
“Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.”
Following its landfall in Mozambique Cyclone Idai continued west to Zimbabwe as a Tropical Storm, wreaking havoc in several districts in the eastern part of the country, with Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in Manicaland Province being the hardest-hit. At least 31 deaths have been reported and over 100 people are missing in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is the latest country in Southern Africa to be hit by heavy rains and violent winds, after Malawi and Mozambique. The death toll in the three countries is currently estimated at 150. But this number is likely to change as the full extent of the damage becomes clear. More heavy rain is also anticipated and this may lead to further devastation.
IFRC has already released about 340,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund which will go towards an initial response effort for about 7,500 people. However, given the scale of the disaster, more resources may be needed to support Mozambique Red Cross efforts on the ground. Already, the team in Beira has identified shelter, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene as priorities.
| Press release
Mozambique: Cyclone Idai leaves trail of devastation
Maputo/Nairobi/Geneva, 16 March 2019 – First reports from the central Mozambican city of Beira suggest that Tropical Cyclone Idai destroyed and damaged homes and knocked out electricity and communications. However, the full impact of the storm is still emerging.
A team of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aid workers is making its way to the city to assess damage and help establish a response operation. With flights to Beira not operating, the team is making the journey by road.
Jamie LeSueur, Head of Emergency Operations for IFRC, is leading the team. He said:
“The extent of the destruction remains unclear, but first-hand information provided by our local colleagues indicate that many parts of Beira have been seriously damaged. Houses have been destroyed, trees and electric poles have fallen. Electricity and communications have been cut.”
Beira is Mozambique’s fourth largest city and is home to about 500,000 people. Information on the number of casualties, injuries or people made homeless is not yet available. Earlier estimates by the UN put over 600,000 people are at risk of exposure to the tropical cyclone winds categorized at causing wide-spread damage or even worse.
While the situation in Mozambique is still unclear, reports from neighbouring Zimbabwe suggest that at least 24 people were killed and about 40 others are missing as a result of the storm. Zimbabwe Red Cross Society has deployed its volunteers to support affected communities in both Chipinge and Chimanimani.
This cyclone follows a week of heavy rains and flooding across southeast Africa that has already killed at least 126 people in Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. More than a million people have been affected in all.
In Mozambique, the floods have already affected 117,000 people with more than 17,000 displaced. In neighbouring Malawi, nearly one million people have been affected including more than 80,000 who are without shelter. Both countries are prone to extreme weather events.
Earlier this week, IFRC released more than 340,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support local Red Cross early warning and early action, and to prepare to support 7,500 people in the aftermath of the storm.
| Press release
Mozambique: Emergency teams on alert as “dangerous and powerful” Tropical Cyclone Idai looms
Nairobi/Geneva, 12 March 2019 —Mozambique is on high alert as Tropical Cyclone Idai barrels towards the country’s central coast. Red Cross disaster response teams in Zambesia and Sofala provinces are readying response plans in anticipation of the cyclone’s landfall towards the end of the week.
Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Regional Director for Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“This dangerous and powerful cyclone could pose an extreme risk to tens of thousands of people in Mozambique. Our teams are on high alert in anticipation of a potentially destructive landfall.
“We encourage people in Mozambique to remain alert, to keep following weather forecasts, and to respond immediately to any warning messages that are relayed by authorities”.
According to meteorologists, Idai’s intensity is equal to that of a Category 3 Atlantic hurricane. However, at its peak intensity, it may reach the equivalent of a Category 4 or even a Category 5 hurricane.
Depending on its intensity and trajectory, Cyclone Idai could also exacerbate the situation in southern Malawi where more than 115,000 people have been affected by severe flooding. In Malawi, Red Cross search and rescue teams are ferrying people trapped by the rising water to safety, as well as distributing basic relief items in six of the worst-affected districts.
Mozambique is regularly hit by cyclones. In February 2007, Cyclone Favio damaged or destroyed 130,000 homes and displaced tens of thousands of people. In 2000, Cyclone Eline hit an already flood-affected central Mozambique, leaving about 463,000 people homeless. Together, the floods and the cyclone killed about 700 people.