In light of heavy flooding in the country earlier this year, Malawi's bishops have held a workshop for journalists to help them explore climate challenges and to mobilize public policy changes.

"Journalists drawn from various media houses in Malawi were sensitized on climate resilience policies, which includes a right-to-food bill, National Disaster Risk Management Policy, and national climate change," Prince Henderson, communication officer of the Malawi bishops conference, told CNA March 3.

The Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (Cadecom) recently held the Feb. 19-20 workshop for journalists in Salima, a city in central Malawi located 60 miles north of Dedza. Participants came from Nation Publication Limited, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Radio Maria, Times Group, Luntha Television and Radio Alinafe.

Cadecom is the Malawi bishops' relief and development wing, and the workshop was directed by its secretary, Carstens Mulume. He explained that the event was meant to equip journalists with knowledge on climate resilience policies so they can raise awareness among the public and stakeholders, and is meant to help Malawi increase its food security and resilience against climate shocks.

Yusuf Mkungula, another Cadecom official, said that Malawi's disaster risk management "is a developmental issue for reducing socioeconomic and environmental disaster losses for economic growth."

He added that recently, environment and climate change have emerged as "major development issues that are severely impacting people's livelihoods … evidence in Malawi shows that the most serious ones have been prolonged dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, riverine floods and flash floods."

"Some of these, especially droughts and floods, have increased in frequency, intensity and magnitude over the last two decades; and have adversely impacted food and water security, water quality, energy and the sustainable livelihoods of rural communities," Mkungula reflected.

Two weeks of heavy rain in January claimed more than 275 lives and displaced more than 230,000 persons from their homes. In addition to homes, infrastructure such as roads and bridges were damaged. Tens of thousands of farm animals, the primary form of capital for most farmers, have died or remain vulnerable to starvation and disease.

According to Voice of America, the flooding washed away more than 158,000 acres of farmland in the country where agriculture accounts for 30 percent of GDP.

In light of such distasters, Mkungula commended the Malawian government for approving Disaster Risk Management Policy saying, "This will provide a platform for effective implementation of Disaster Risk Management related programmes."

He further urged the government to ensure that the right-to-food bill and national climate change policy, which are in draft form, be urgently looked into and approved since they are linked to the Disaster Risk Management Policy.