Strengthening Disaster Risk Management in Malawi
Strengthening Disaster Risk Management in Malawi
China-Malawi-UNDP Cooperation to Improve Malawi's Resilience to Disasters


Malawi is prone to climate-related disasters, especially droughts and floods, which have a considerable effect on the vulnerable population of the country. The frequent occurrence and increasing severity of floods in Malawi have impacted much of the country’s population. The affected areas observed localized droughts or floods during critical stages of crop (mainly rain-fed maize) growth, and hence crop (maize) production was affected, impacting vulnerable population particularly hard. In early 2013, Malawi received heavy rains that lead to flooding in several districts, houses collapsed and roads were rendered impassable, and livestock and crops were washed away. Malawi faced acute food shortages throughout 2013, which exacerbated the situation of the flood-affected communities. In January 2015, the largest floods in Malawi’s history hit the country and caused widespread damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure, and left around 200,000 displaced.

Towards a Solution

To respond to the needs on the ground, in 2015 UNDP China and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce formulated and approved a new disaster risk management project with the government of Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA). The trilateral cooperation project aims to increase community resilience to flooding in disaster-affected districts through the introduction of rural communities to technically feasible, locally available, and environmentally implementable and socially responsible disaster risk management solutions.

The project has empowered local communities and NGOs in rural Malawi, whom UNDP and the Malawi Department of Disaster Management Affairs supported with a small-grant scheme and technical advice to implement a range of local projects centred on practical solutions for rehabilitation, recovery and resilience.

The flood management project is integrated within the policy framework set up by DoDMA, and in line with the Preliminary Response Plan by the Vice President of Malawi following the torrential floods. The rationale for China, Malawi and UNDP working together are the clear benefits for Malawi to draw China’s comprehensive domestic experiences in disaster risk management, including flooding. UNDP’s role encompasses drawing on its in-depth global and national expertise on disaster risk management, its experience in South-South Cooperation, its on the ground presence and expertise in Malawi, and its experience of managing programmes with local partners through calls for proposals. As part of the project, a Chinese flood management expert was deployed to Malawi to facilitate knowledge-sharing and support the community-based small-scale projects.

Through the support programme 5 projects were implemented in Phalombe (2), Salima (1) and Karonga (2). The scheme is open to community-based organisations, civil protection committees and NGOs, and has enabled the department to assist communities to address problems they face due to disasters. Through Malawi-China-UNDP Cooperation in DRM, DoDMA would like to increase the number of projects to be implemented.


  • Outcome 1: Targeted vulnerable households are resilient (capable of meeting their basic needs and withstanding shocks) by 2016. The trilateral cooperation constructed four evacuation centers, a dike and riverbank protection for a flooding hotspot covering 570 meters, and two check dams to control floods. Each evacuation center accommodates 200 to 300 people and has separate rooms for men and women. A storage room is also fully stocked with food, water buckets, kitchen utensils, and education materials that provide information on emergency response and recovery. The evacuation centers also have separate indoor kitchens located close to the main building to ensure easy accessibility. Solar panels are also installed on the roofs to power all the rooms and outside areas; an efficient and renewable solution to meet the energy needs of the centers during disasters. In total, the projects directly benefited more than 23,000 people.
  • Outcome 2: Improved management of the environment, natural resources and climate change for sustainable development at national and district level by 2016.
    •  Disaster risk management mainstreamed in policies, development plans and programmes at the national level and implemented in 15 disaster-prone districts;
    • Data and knowledge on the impact of natural disaster collected and made accessible to decision makers and government, the private sector and civil society;
    • Coordination mechanisms and implementation arrangements for Disaster Risk Management/Disaster Risk Reduction established and used at the national level and disaster-prone districts.

There are a number of fundamental elements in the project design that contribute to sustainability of its activities beyond the duration of the project. These include (1) the provision of policy notes/suggestions for adoption by related government bodies in the partner countries, (2) application of research results in the communities, and (3) setting up a disaster information platform that could build the gap between communities and upper-level governments. The lessons, experiences and knowledge generated by the project have the potential to be replicated and linked to other countries. As the Chinese government is increasingly promoting South-South Cooperation, such type of programmes could be integrated with the national SSC strategies.

Contact Information

Sujuan Zhang, Team leader of China South-South Facility of Global Partnership Cluster

Countries involved

China, Malawi

Supported by

The Ministry of Commerce/ Department of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (DITEA)

Implementing Entities

Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi

Project Status


Project Period

2014 - 2018

URL of the practice

Primary SDG

13 - Climate Action

Secondary SDGs

01 - No Poverty, 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

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