DDD Conference

Ms. Shahar Livne

The role of Qualitative Research Methods in Assessing Vulnerability and Preparedness Capacities to Extreme Weather Events: Lessons learned from Cyclone Idai in Southern Malawi

Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Cyclone Idai severely hit Malawi in March 2019. The cyclone has joined other extreme weather events affecting the country, including floods and droughts. Despite this and the grim forecasts of the IPCC for the region, not much has been done to understand the impact of natural disasters on local populations and prepare for future challenges.

In collaboration with Partners in Health/Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo, this study seeks to help fill this gap in knowledge regarding the barriers to reducing vulnerability and improving preparedness in a setting of extreme poverty and climatic changes. The goals of the study are to understand varying vulnerabilities between populations, emergency needs, and the actions required for better preparedness. Quantitative methods are widely used in climate change research, but these methods alone cannot explain the underlying causes and mechanisms of climate vulnerability and how to address it. In the study, conducted in October-November 2021, participant observations and in-depth interviews with 29 community members and 11 stakeholders were conducted in the Neno District.

The results of the study helped us better understand how the most vulnerable populations interact with their communities and formal authorities, and are assisted by them, in terms of disaster preparedness and disaster recovery.

With the use of qualitative methods, we were able to identify the shortcomings in the support networks and systems and provide recommendations. In order to improve preparedness capacity, investments must be made in official and unofficial community and governmental structures, emphasizing the strengthening of specific populations and their houses.

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