Malawi is particularly prone to adverse climate hazards that include dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, riverine floods, and flash floods. Droughts and floods, the most severe of these hazards, have increased in frequency, intensity, and magnitude over the past twenty years, with dire consequences on food and water security, water quality, energy resources, and sustainable livelihoods of the most rural communities. From 1979 to 2008, 2,596 people perished due to natural disasters, and nearly another 21.7 million people were adversely affected. Floods and droughts are the leading cause of chronic food security, which is endemic in many parts of the country. 

This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. And it allows quick evaluation of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.

Natural Hazard Statistics

The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.


Climate change is now recognized to have a significant impact on disaster management efforts and pose a significant threat to the efforts to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable populations. The demands of disaster risk management are such that concise, clear, and reliable information is crucial. The information presented here offers insight into the frequency, impact and occurrence of natural hazards.

Natural Hazard / Development Nexus

Understanding natural hazard occurrence as well as historical climate conditions, in relation to development contexts, is critical to understanding a country’s historical vulnerability. This tool allows the visualization of different natural hazards or historical climate conditions with socio-economic and development datasets. Select the Development Context and either a Natural Hazard or Climate Condition and overlay horizontally by sliding the toggle left or right to gain a broader sense of historically vulnerable areas.



Data presented under Historical Climate Conditions are reanalysis products derived from ERA5-Land data. ERA5-Land is a global land-surface dataset at 9 km resolution, consistent with atmospheric data from the ERA5 reanalysis from 1950 onward. Climate reanalyses combine past observations with models to generate consistent time series of multiple climate variables. They provide a comprehensive description of the observed climate as it has evolved during recent decades, on 3D grids at sub-daily intervals. 

This data has been collected, aggregated and processed by the Climate Resilience Cluster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.

Key Vulnerabilities
  • Droughts have been observed to increase poverty by 1.3 percentage points, but this rises to almost 17 percentage points during a 1-in-25 year drought (roughly equal to an additional 2.1 million people falling below the poverty line).
  • Models estimate that floods may cause an average gross domestic product loss of almost 1 percent every year, while during periods of drought, economic losses are found to be much higher. Floods cause annual losses of about 12 percent of maize production in the south, where about one-third of Malawi’s maize is grown.

 More information on natural hazards can be found at ThinkHazard.

  • Model results estimate that droughts, on average, cause gross domestic product losses of almost 1 percent every year. Economic losses are much higher during extreme droughts.
  • One study suggests a possibility that rainy seasons will grow shorter, potentially leading to more frequent failures in maize cultivation, which in turn has significant implications for future food security.
  • Interventions for coping with recurring droughts are likely to be site-specific, depending on terrain, soil type, and methods of water extraction and delivery, among many others. Some of the potential interventions include:
    • Construction of medium to large-scale dams, and small rainfall harvesting structures, such as water troughs, small dams and infiltration gullies.
    • Construction of deep wells for the provision of water for domestic purposes, irrigation and animal use.
    • To cope with recurring floods, potential interventions should focus on the construction of flood protection structures.