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Dodma, MUST Pen MoU

October 9, 2017   Our Reporter
The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) under the Office of the Vice President and the Malawi University of Science and Technology’s Ndata School of Climate and Earth Sciences (NSCES) on October 4, 2017 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Lilongwe aimed at enhancing their cooperation in areas of research, training and Knowledge dissemination. The signing ceremony followed months of discussions between Dodma and NSCES to ensure that the MoU covers all relevant and important issues around disaster management in Malawi. In her speech at the ceremony, MUST Vice Chancellor Professor Address Malata said Malawi currently faces many natural disasters such as floods, droughts, hailstorms, strong winds, earthquakes and landslides, which have contributed to economic losses and shocks to livelihood systems, household poverty and national economic growth. “The frequency and intensity of hydro-meteorological related disasters appear to be on the increase mainly due to climate change. Yet our research has shown that among the challenges in the disaster management sector of Malawi is shortage of skilled manpower,” said Professor Malata. She said the sector, among others, needs skills of early warning experts, emergency including search and rescue, mapping experts, geologists, engineers, GIS and remote sensing specialists, climatologists, meteorologists, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, seismologists, volcanologists, and experts in resilience, adaptation, recovery and reconstruction. “Unfortunately, from a disaster management perspective, there are no institutions locally to train people in these very critical areas. This explains why MUST started training programmes in these areas. Our two programmes in Disaster Risk Management and Meteorology and Climate Science are holistic so that when students come out, they are fully baked to start any work in disaster management,” said Professor Malata while requesting Dodma and other key stakeholders to consider offering internships to students in disaster management related programmes. “Apart from internships, we would also appreciate assistance in areas of scholarships, teaching materials such as computers, and part-time lecturers. You may wish to know that as a university we are in the process of setting up a Centre of Excellence in Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management which will act as a link in terms of research, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and outreach between the various departments under NSCES and the rest of the schools at MUST.” The centre will also actively interact with the public and private sectors, the civil society, other universities and research institutions both locally and globally, intergovernmental organisations and all relevant stakeholder. It centre’s main guiding principles will be all relevant Malawi Government policies and laws, the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015-2030 and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). On his part, Secretary to the Vice President and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Clement Chinthu-Phiri said the MoU aims at providing a framework for active cooperation in training, research and development activities of the two parties in disaster risk management. “It also intends to strengthen the mutual understanding in the areas of disaster risk management and allied fields and promote training and research collaboration for sustainable development of Malawi. Therefore our signing of this MoU today demonstrates our commitment to this cause,” said Chinthu-Phiri. He said the MoU was in line with the Disaster Risk Management Act that calls for integration at primary, secondary and higher education levels. “The MoU also shows the trust Dodma has in MUST as the only institution offering undergraduate programme in disaster risk management. We are happy that we were part of the team that developed the curricula for this programme,” he said. He said Dodma had previously faced challenges to access local training and research studies because those that are sponsored by outsiders are expensive and in terms of research publications, they are published in international journals that cannot easily be accessed by Malawians. “All this will change with this MoU because we will be mounting joint short and long term training programmes and commissioning research whose results will be easily accessed and applied locally,” said Chinthu-Phiri. “We are creating a number of positions within Dodma and with MUST offering these programmes, we will now have the human capacity to take charge of those positions.” He applauded MUST for its innovative ideas and proactive approach to issues, adding it was the university that approached Dodma for this cooperation. “We wish to pledge our support to the Centre of Excellence in Climate and Disaster Risk Management. We hope it will bring a lot of innovations, technologies and many other benefits that will change the local disaster management landscape,” he said.