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From the HKH to Africa

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Our CBFEWS success inspires a flood intervention project in Malawi

From the HKH to Africa

Much like our HKH countries, Malawi in southeastern Africa is highly vulnerable to water-related disasters. In 2015, Malawi experienced extensive flooding, affecting around 1 million people, displacing 350,000, and killing hundreds. In our role as a globally relevant knowledge centre, we have shared information and experiences implementing the community-based flood early warning system (CBFEWS) to assist communities and government agencies in responding to floods.

With our partner Sustainable Eco Engineering (SEE), we are providing technical support to the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in implementing a United Nations Development Programme-supported project that will setup up low-cost CBFEWS in eight flood-prone districts of Malawi.

This work involves supporting the design of appropriate early warning systems to suit local conditions and providing technical backstopping to RCMRD and SEE. To share our learning associated with sustainability, we are providing trainings of trainers to national and district government officers and partners so that they can, in turn, train community-based officers and CBFEWS caretakers at the local level. Given the prior successes of CBFEWS, this technology transfer from the HKH to Africa will help save the lives and livelihoods of flood vulnerable communities.


CBFEWS is a set of simple instruments installed upstream to detect floods and generate flood signals that are communicated to downstream communities. As the information is near-real time, it increases lead time to prepare for effective flood response.

Our experience with CBFEWS goes back a decade, during which we have set up simple, low-cost instruments in upstream areas of flood-prone rivers in Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, providing near-real time flood information to downstream communities. The impact has been instrumental. Our CBFEWS was able to share life-saving information during a flood event in Dihiri village, Assam, India, for which it was recognized with the UNFCCC Momentum for Change 2014 Lighthouse Activity Award in the Information and Communications Technology category. The system was able to alert downstream communities along Gilgit River in Sher Qilla, Pakistan, during the flood of June 2017. And the impact has been transboundary, as crucial early warning was shared from Lalgadh, Nepal, to downstream communities in Sarpallo and across the border in Bhitthamore, India, during the flooding of Ratu River in August 2017.

We need to enhance the preparedness of vulnerable communities by providing climate services; share data, information, and scientific and indigenous knowledge; and foster transboundary disaster risk reduction practices. Targeted risk reduction strategies should reach the poorest and most marginalized.(Paraphrased from ICIMOD 2020, COVID-19 impact and policy responses in the Hindu Kush Himalaya)

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