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Statements and speeches Special Procedures

UN experts express solidarity with the people of Malawi in wake of Cyclone Freddy

04 April 2023

GENEVA (4 April 2023): UN experts* today expressed solidarity with the people of Malawi in the wake of devastating Tropical Cyclone Freddy that has killed and injured hundreds, creating an unprecedented crisis and prompting the Government to declare a state of disaster.

“We extend our heartfelt support and solidarity to the hundreds of thousands affected by Freddy, the longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded in the southern hemisphere,” the experts said.

“The cyclone has had a devastating toll on people across 14 districts – nearly half the country – causing loss of lives, destruction of homes, livelihoods and infrastructure,” they said. “Cyclone Freddy submerged and washed away hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops, leaving more than half a million people displaced and sheltered in camps across flood-affected areas,” the UN experts said.

Challenging weather conditions continue to hamper search and rescue operations in areas only accessible by air while other districts remain out of reach due to flooding and landslides. Several hundred are reported to be missing and the number is expected to rise in the days ahead. The cyclone has severely impacted areas already suffering from a cholera outbreak and overwhelmed the already overstretched health sector.

“The disaster has left an estimated 1.1 million people in dire need of urgent humanitarian support with the most immediate needs being shelter, food, clean water, sanitation and hygiene, health, and safety,” the experts said.

“Protecting the most vulnerable internally displaced persons in sites, ensuring timely and adequate access to food and health care, including by the provision of sexual and reproductive health care and protection services for women and girls, unaccompanied and separated children, LGBTI persons, people with disabilities and older persons, without discrimination, is paramount,” they said.

Commending the government and the people of Malawi, the experts said they had displayed remarkable strength and resilience in the face of the disaster.

“We hope that affected communities can contribute their traditional knowledge and valuable perspectives in the design of programmatic responses, disaster risk reduction strategies and durable solutions,” the experts said. “The rights and dignity of affected populations must be respected in the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the aftermath.”

The experts urged humanitarian, aid and development partners, business and financial institutions to step up efforts to support the Government of Malawi to alleviate the impact on affected communities. “Malawi needs to develop durable solutions to avert, minimise and address disaster displacement through climate adaptation measures, preparedness and disaster risk reduction,” they said. 

“Despite contributing little to the problem, Malawi is facing the impacts of climate change. We call on big emitter States, who are disproportionately responsible for the climate crisis, to make drastic cuts to their emissions, and scale up finance for adaptation and loss and damage,” they said.  

“Addressing internal displacement in the context of climate-related disasters requires a holistic, multi-stakeholder, human rights-based approach,” the experts said.


The experts: Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Tlaleng MofokengSpecial Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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