In addition to the immediate danger and displacements, the floods will also cause a variety of other, longer term problems. Flooding generally brings several health specific threats, including poor sanitation, lack of clean drinking water, increased rates of cholera and other diarrheal diseases, and higher rates of malaria and other parasitic diseases. Likewise, the loss of crops and livestock wil undoubtedly threaten food security in the short and long-term. In a country where malnutrition is high during the "best" of times --- UNICEF identifies malnutrition as the number one contributor to childhood death in Malawi --- the loss of food production due to these floods is likely to result in severe food shortages for months. In addition, the destruction of infrastructure --- bridges and railways --- has cut off supply lines for many rural communitites.
The Preliminatry Response Plan calls for $81 million of essential aid --- of which only a quarter has been received to date. Initial estimates suggest that at least $3.4 million will be needed to respond to healthcare needs alone and $16 million for agricultural needs. The Food and Agriculture Organization of UN is working with the Malawi government to provide essential seeds and planting materials.
In the face of such devistation, it is unsurprising to see strong calls for international aid. However, as I witnessed during my work in Malawi over the summer, the political situation will likely hinder aid contirbutions and coordination. Malawi's recent "Aid-gate" scandal has made many donors wary of directing aid to government agencies --- instead, many prefer to work through NGO's or direct their own efforts. The result has been a disconnect in coordination and severe limiting of the governments ability to respond rapidly and effectively to emergencies.
Academically, it will be interesting to see if the emergencies leads to greater coordination among donors (unlikely), increased willingness to work with government agencies (also unlikely), and/or greater reliance on multilateral organizations that have the greatest local capacity, such as the UN and its subsidiary agencies (possible).