By the numbers today:
UPDATE ON #MalawiFloods2019 as of Tuesday, 12th March: 56 deaths & 577 injuries have been recorded. 3 people are missing. 184,589 households (approximately 922,945 people) have been affected & 16,545 households (approximately 82, 725 people) have been displaced @MwNewsAgency pic.twitter.com/oHwfL56RNV
— Malawi Government (@MalawiGovt) March 13, 2019
Again, to remind, 46% of Malawians are under 15* so those numbers include large numbers of children.
Three things that came up a number of times today.
First, many Malawians blame their own construction methods. Few houses are made to withstand the deluge that we received so they shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. Still, they aren’t wrong in general. The majority of Malawians live in brick or mud brick homes. When visitors come they are surprised by this. We were as well. You drive along and see whole “slums” made from brick houses. It makes sense though. Malawi has a lot of dirt and clay. This means a lot of bricks. Unfortunately, many Malawians can’t afford commercially fired bricks. Instead they either use bricks fired in home made kilns or make their own and dry them in the sun. Once water hits these home made bricks they weaken, crumble, and eventually turn back to dirt and mud. While the government recognizes this and has tried to control brick manufacturing and home construction, like many things in Malawi there is next to no implementation or enforcement. There are no enforced standards for home construction and therefore those who are poor will use inadequate and unsafe techniques to get shelter for their families.
Second, one of the big fears is what the floods did to crops. It is hard to over estimate the impact that agriculture has on daily life in Malawi.
The [agriculture] sector generates around a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounts for 65 percent of employment and wires in around 60 percent of export earnings.
When you factor in other sectors like transportation and agri-food, the agriculture sector contributes 44 percent to GDP and generates 74 percent of employment. One sector employs 3/4 of Malawians.
This year was supposed to be a bumper crop. In four districts most flooded the estimates have gone from a 30-90 percent increase from last year to either hold steady with last year or a decrease.
Which leads to the third thing people are worried about: inflation. Over the past couple of years the inflation rate has leveled off at around 10 percent. This is in stark contrast to the just under 38 percent it hit in 2013. Some economists attribute this to a tight monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of Malawi. Others point to adequate maize supplies. As such a large sector of the economy and a daily staple for the majority of Malawians, maize has a disproportionate effect on the economy. A bad maize year can drag down the economy, escalating inflation to dangerous levels. By diminishing the yield, the floods potentially also destabilize the Malawian economy.
*originally I said 25 not 15. Corrected now.