UNESCO ROSA launches Cyclone IDAI assessment reports

Following the devastating tropical Cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique from 14 to 15 March 2019 and moved to Zimbabwe and Malawi, the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) commissioned two rapid assessments on national media disaster preparedness in countries affected by Cyclone Idai. The two assessment reports titled, “An assessment of Malawi Media in Disaster Risk Reduction: The case of Cyclone IDAI” and “Response to Cyclone IDAI by the Media in Zimbabwe: An assessment” were launched during the Media Workshop on reporting disasters held on 10 March 2021.

The publications show that the media in both Malawi and Zimbabwe had some challenges in reporting on the cyclone particularly prior to and during the disaster. Lack of adequate resources and need for capacity building on reporting natural disasters were identified as major contributing factors.

In Malawi, the media were not fully prepared to report on Cyclone Idai due to lack of budget allocations by media houses, no plans and no training to report on disaster and lack of resources to visit affected areas impacted the media’s capacity to report on the cyclone. Media stakeholders and humanitarian organizations however rated the media as good (4 on the scale of 1 to 5) in the post cyclone reporting period.

Prior to the cyclone, the Malawi Meteorological department engaged the media to warn people on the impending danger. During the cyclone, media coverage was high particularly by community media. A key recommendation from the Malawi assessment is the need for a good rapport between the media and all government and non-government entities for efficient reporting and better coordination of disaster risk management efforts.

In Zimbabwe, only 6 out of the 16 media houses in the country monitored carried news of Cyclone Idai before it hit Zimbabwe. The majority of articles written were on disaster response by the various stakeholders as compared to preparedness and prevention. Stories were generally seen from a male perspective as fewer women spoke at all levels. 14% of the respondents had received prior training on reporting on disasters or any other type of humanitarian situation.

Coverage of Idai mostly concentrated on developments in Manicaland (53%) while the other two affected provinces Masvingo (4%) and Mashonaland East (1%) received marginal coverage. Key recommendation from the Zimbabwe assessment is that media houses should consider the inclusion of policies on reporting disasters within the institutions and media practitioners should continue to be trained on reporting disasters.

The Zimbabwe media assessment study was done by Media Monitors led by its Director Patience Zirima and the Malawi study was done by Mwayi Chapambali. Both publications were validated by the Malawi and Zimbabwe governments through the countries’ Ministries of Information.

The two publications will be instrumental is giving baseline information for trainings and projects for the media to enhance their capacity to report on disasters.

The Media Workshop on reporting disasters was organised by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) and UNESCO ROSA.


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