Malawi - 1.1 Malawi Humanitarian Background

Disasters, Conflicts and Migration 

Natural Disasters



Comments / Details



In the last 36 years, Malawi has experienced eight major droughts, affecting over 24 million people.  



Although not a highly active earthquake area, earthquakes do occur in Malawi, the most recent between December 2009 and January 2010, when a cluster of earthquakes occurred in the Karonga region in the north of Malawi, the biggest registering a 6.2 magnitude on the Richter scale. 



HIV is a major public health concern in Malawi with a prevalence of over 11% among the country population; however, this has been steadily reduced from a rate as high as 17% in the mid-1990s. Outbreaks of Cholera, Dysentery, Salmonella and Measles do occasionally occur. In the recent years, from 2019, the world has been hit by COVID 19 of which Malawi has not been spared 

Extreme Temperatures


The temperature rarely exceeds 32°C. 



Over the past five decades, Malawi has experienced more than 23 major floods, with these events increasing in frequency, magnitude, and scope over the years. In early March 2019, heavy rains developed from a Tropical Depression 11 that formed offshore central Mozambique. Heavy rains hit Malawi, causing severe flooding in the Southern and, to a lesser extent, Central Region of the country 

Insect Infestation


Cases of insect infestation have been reported in crops and this is recognised as a major constraint to increasing crop yields. Droughts have been associated with increased army worm and red locust infestation, especially in the Lake Chilwa-Phalombe plain 



Natural geological hazards such as landslides, debris and mudflows have caused, and will continue to cause, many problems in Malawi. Most events occur in Southern Malawi and are mainly triggered by tropical cyclones that bring heavy rainfalls. Human impacts on the environment such as largescale earthworks projects and replacement of natural forests by non-endemic tree species has also contributed to a rising risk of flash floods and debris flows. 

Volcanic Eruptions


There are no active or dormant volcanoes in Malawi. 

High Waves / Surges


Malawi is a land-locked country and Lake Malawi presents no problems. 



Wildfires do not present a problem in Malawi 

High Winds


Being an inland continental country, high winds are not common. 

Man-Made Issues

Civil Strife


Civil unrest in the form of localised rioting can occur in Malawi. 

International Conflict


There are no conflicts with any neighbouring countries. 

Internally Displaced Persons


There are currently no displaced people within Malawi. 

Refugees Present


Malawi has hosted refugees from conflict for many years. The war in Mozambique in the late 1980s and early 1990s produced up to 2 million refugees, however this population has now been repatriated. Conflicts in Africa's Great Lakes Region, particularly DRC, are the source of most refugees. According to UNHCR, in August 2009, there were 12,454 refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi, in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp and most come from Burundi, Rwanda and DRC. 

Landmines / UXO Present


For a more detailed database on disasters on disasters by country, please see the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters Country Profile 

Seasonal Effects on Logistics Capacities

Seasonal Effects on Transport

Transport Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details

Primary Road Transport

Jan - Dec

Roads in the south of the country can be affected by heavy rain and flooding. 

Secondary Road Transport

Jan - Dec

Roads across much of the country are difficult to access and sometimes impassable due to rain and flooding. 

Rail Transport

Jan - Dec

Delays to rail transit do occur when washaways occur 

Air Transport

Jan - Dec

Air transport is not really affected by seasonal weather. 

Waterway Transport

Jan - Dec

The only navigable waterway is the Shire River which is not used for transport. 

Seasonal Effects on Storage and Handling

Activity Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details


Jan - Dec

Insect infestation can increase during the rainy season resulting in occasional product loss. 


Jan - Dec

Open air handling of grain can be an issue during the wet season. 


Jan - Dec


Capacity and Contacts for In-Country Emergency Response


The Government of Malawi is the ultimate coordinator of all actors involved in an emergency response and is responsible for disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery; any emergency response is led by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), assisted by the relevant line ministries. District Commissioners are mandated to coordinate any emergency-related activities in their districts through the Civil Protection Committees with the assistance of NGOs in the districts. 

A National Epidemic Committee under the Ministry of Health has been established with membership from key stakeholders, including the donor community and various government departments, to coordinate all activities on all levels for epidemic prevention and control, through which service delivery, surveillance, monitoring, data collection, analysis and dissemination are coordinated. The responsibility for cholera surveillance falls under this Committee. Donor Coordination can facilitate an effective and timely response. 

For information on government contact details, please see the following link: 4.1 Malawi Government Contact List

Humanitarian Community

The UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC) is responsible for coordinating the UN emergency response. Under the guidance of the UNRC, the UN Country Team (UNCT) is responsible for the effective and efficient implementation of inter-agency disaster management activities in Malawi through UNDAF Cluster II which focuses on Social Protection and Disaster Risk Reduction. UNDAF Cluster II team comprises the emergency focal points from each UN agency, Malawi RCS and the World Bank. Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). As a member of the IFRC, the MRCS embodies the work and principles of the Red Cross Movement. IFRC directs and channels its international assistance to victims of natural and technological disasters through National Societies, in this case the Malawi Red Cross Society. IFRC acts as the official representative of its member societies and works to strengthen their capacity to carry out effective disaster preparedness, health, and social programmes. This is accomplished through provision of financial, technical and human resource assistance. 

UN agencies, MRCS and a network of NGO implementing partners will respond to an emergency in collaboration with and through the Government of Malawi. In accordance with UN Humanitarian Reform and the cluster directions of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), Cluster Lead Agencies will ensure a coordinated action among partners in their respective sectors. This responsibility requires coordination with Government, agencies and NGOs to ensure that the needs of these sectors are addressed, that information is shared, and that reporting is carried out accordingly. 

For information on humanitarian agency contact details, please see the following links: 

4.2 Malawi Humanitarian Agency Contact List


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