Urban vulnerability, disaster risk reduction and resettlement in Mzuzu city, Malawi
For most developing countries at risk of disasters and climate change, adopting structural measures to reduce disaster risks remain a challenge. This paper presents findings of a study conducted through a mixed methods design in a flood risk city in Malawi, Sub-Saharan Africa. The study assesses the city's vulnerability to floods and actions being taken to reduce the risks. It then investigates how resettlement is being promoted as one such risk reduction measure. The study finds multiple vulnerability factors, including unsafe construction practices, poor drainage systems, unregulated solid waste disposal, institutional incapacity, inadequacy of land, settlements in high risk areas, deforestation, siltation of rivers and national disaster risk reduction policies that neglect urban areas. However, efforts to tackle underlying causes of vulnerability are wanting. One positive programme is a slum upgrading pilot project implemented by non-state actors that also lacks government support. In the case of resettlement, its planning and execution is fraught with multiple challenges emanating from haphazard planning and lack of community participation. The paper argues that the emphasis on resettlement is obscuring the key drivers of vulnerability, while simultaneously exposing both resettled and those left behind to further risks. It, therefore, calls for caution when planning and implementing disaster risk reduction policies that have the potential to create new forms of vulnerability to hazards or exacerbate them.