Shelter from the storm? household-level impacts of, and responses to, the 2015 floods in Malawi

As extreme weather events intensify due to climate change, it becomes ever more critical to understand how vulnerable households are to these events and the mechanisms households can rely on to minimize losses effectively. This paper analyzes the impacts of the floods that occurred during the 2014/15 growing season in Malawi, using a two-period panel data set. The results show that while yields were dramatically lower for households severely affected by the floods, drops in food consumption expenditures and calories per capita were less dramatic. However, dietary quality, as captured by the food consumption score, was significantly lower for flood-affected households. Although access to social safety nets increased food consumption outcomes, particularly for those in moderately-affected areas, the proportion of households with access to certain safety net programs was lower in 2015 compared with 2013. The latter finding suggests that linking these programs more closely to disaster relief efforts could substantially improve welfare outcomes during and after a natural disaster. Finally, risk-coping strategies, including financial account ownership, access to off-farm income sources, and adult children living away from home, were generally ineffective in mitigating the negative impacts of the floods.