A metric-based assessment of flood risk and vulnerability of rural communities in the Lower Shire Valley, Malawi
- 1Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, Heriot Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, UK
- 2The Polytechnic, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Malawi, PMB 303, Blantyre 3, Malawi
- 3Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Malawi, P.O. Box 280, Zomba, Malawi
Abstract. In response to the increasing frequency and economic damages of natural disasters globally, disaster risk management has evolved to incorporate risk assessments that are multi-dimensional, integrated and metric-based. This is to support knowledge-based decision making and hence sustainable risk reduction. In Malawi and most of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), however, flood risk studies remain focussed on understanding causation, impacts, perceptions and coping and adaptation measures. Using the IPCC Framework, this study has quantified and profiled risk to flooding of rural, subsistent communities in the Lower Shire Valley, Malawi. Flood risk was obtained by integrating hazard and vulnerability. Flood hazard was characterised in terms of flood depth and inundation area obtained through hydraulic modelling in the valley with Lisflood-FP, while the vulnerability was indexed through analysis of exposure, susceptibility and capacity that were linked to social, economic, environmental and physical perspectives. Data on these were collected through structured interviews of the communities. The implementation of the entire analysis within GIS enabled the visualisation of spatial variability in flood risk in the valley. The results show predominantly medium levels in hazardousness, vulnerability and risk. The vulnerability is dominated by a high to very high susceptibility. Economic and physical capacities tend to be predominantly low but social capacity is significantly high, resulting in overall medium levels of capacity-induced vulnerability. Exposure manifests as medium. The vulnerability and risk showed marginal spatial variability. The paper concludes with recommendations on how these outcomes could inform policy interventions in the Valley.