El Niño: 23 of 28 Malawian Districts in a State of Disaster

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Otago, New Zealand. As the Africa Desk Chief for Atlas, her expertise spans conflict, politics, and history. She is also the Editor for The ModernInsurgent and has interests in yoga and meditation.

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What You Need to Know:

Speaking from Malawi’s State House tonight, President Dr Lazarus Chakwera has announced a state of disaster in 23 of the country’s 28 districts due to drought and flood cycles brought on by the weather event ‘El Niño.’ 

The President announced close to 2 million households in the country are under threat of food insecurity, and invited national and international stakeholders to assist with the situation. 

The state of disaster, effective from tonight, covers Karonga, Neno, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mchinji, Thyolo, Mulanje, Balaka, Ntcheu, Mangochi, Zomba, Chiradzulu, Salima, Dowa, Phalombe, NKhotakota, Dedza, Ntchisi, Machinga, and Kasungu states.

The Details:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is one of the most important sources of annual global climate variability, second only to the earth–sun relationship that drives the seasons. El Niño and its counterpart La Niña are associated with characteristic patterns of rainfall and temperature, which can include extreme events such as flooding and drought.” 

The combination of flooding periods and drought periods can heavily impact crop production by degrading soils over time. As a result, WHO suggests that some of the worst food crisis events in the 20th and 21st centuries are related to ENSO. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report on the impact of El Niño on Southern Africa in February. The report claims, “El Niño brings high temperatures and below-average rainfall to Southern Africa from November to April, significantly affecting agriculture and leading to water scarcity, food shortages, and disease outbreaks. A record mid-season dry spell of over 30 days has affected vast parts of the region including, Angola, Botswana, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. These areas have received the lowest rainfall for the late January/February timeframe in at least 40 years. The ongoing El Niño is forecast to continue until April 2024.” 

Additionally, since October 2023, Malawi has reported cases of cholera as a result of El Niño as well as in January, faced influxes of red locusts.