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Malawi flooding: urgent assistance needed to confront massive and complex challenges, say UN experts

GENEVA (30 January 2015) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the international community to rapidly provide all necessary funding and assistance to the Government of Malawi and humanitarian actors in response to some of the worst flooding in the country in living memory. Flooding has also affected Madagascar and Mozambique where international assistance is crucial to scale up responses.

“The flooding has displaced large numbers of people and presents massive and complex challenges for Governments and their humanitarian allies in the short, medium and longer-term,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani.

“Evacuation of affected populations should be undertaken where necessary to save lives, and an effective humanitarian response is essential to address the needs of internally displaced people and others affected. Helping people to return and reconstruct devastated homes - when circumstances allow - will be just one challenge among many to rebuild lives and livelihoods and should be part of a broader recovery plan,” he said.

An estimated 638,000 people have been affected in 15 districts of Malawi since early January with 79 dead and hundreds more injured or missing. At least 174,000 people have been internally displaced in the three worst hit districts, with the total number likely to be far higher. In Madagascar and Mozambique, more than 240,000 people have been affected by flooding. Rainstorms and floods have ruined vast areas of crops.

A Preliminary Response Plan to the emergency developed by the Government in partnership with aid agencies, estimates that USD 81 million is urgently required to respond to essential shelter, food, healthcare, water and sanitation and other urgent needs. Only around a quarter of this amount has been received to date.

“The impact of flooding on food security poses immediate problems as well as potentially severe food shortages for months to come, as crops have been washed away and livestock lost,” said Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food. “Poor rural communities have lost everything and require early assistance to prevent hunger and malnutrition."

“Safe water, sanitation and hygiene must be provided urgently for the survival of those affected, prioritizing the most vulnerable groups, but also for the prevention of water-related diseases such as cholera and malaria,” said Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation. An estimated USD 3.4 million is needed to respond to urgent healthcare needs and to prevent and control outbreaks of disease.

The experts praised the Government leadership for responding quickly to the crisis and welcomed the immediate response by several countries and humanitarian agencies in providing funding and aid. However they called on others within the international community to do everything possible to meet the current serious shortfall in funds and provision of essential aid.  


Special Rapporteurs are independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. As Special Rapporteurs they are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacities. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with support for the fulfilment of their mandates.

Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx

Hilal Elver (Turkey) is a Research Professor, and co-director of the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy housed at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. Learn more:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx

Léo Heller is the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, appointed in November 2014. He is a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil and was previously Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014. Learn more:

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Graham Fox (+41 22 917 9640 / gfox@ohchr.org) or write to idp@ohchr.org

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