Malawi hit by catastrophic floods; emergency aid on its way

This photo taken from ACT Alliance shows the difficulties faced by Malawi civilians due to continuous rains and floods.Francis Botha/ACT/DCA

More non-governmental organisations have sent emergency assistance to flood victims in Malawi, Africa.

Christian Aid, Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) and Evangelical Lutheran Development Services (ELDS), all members of ACT alliance, and UN agencies have sent relief goods and have been working to rebuild the affected areas of the country. The organisations are partnering with local government agencies to facilitate more relief.

Currently, more than 630,000 people are estimated to have been affected, with 120,000 of those displaced by the flood and heavy rains that hit the country's southern district a week ago, destroying homes, livestock, and farms, according to Christian Aid's report.

According to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi, the NGOs will be building 50 latrines, distributing 1,800 water purification tablets and jerry cans and will be rehabilitating 200 emergency sanitation facilities in the coming weeks.

Moreover, 1,800 tarpaulins will be distributed to provide emergency shelter for up to 9,000 people. They will also hand out 850 insecticide-treated mosquito nets, particularly for pregnant mothers and children under five. In addition 4,000 families will receive kits containing essential household and hygiene items.

Christian Aid and partners are working to provide 40,000 people in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts with access to clean water, toilet facilities and temporary shelter.

Since the flood has swept away water sources as well as public toilets, the remaining water sources are suspected to be contaminated and there is a possible threat of waterborne diseases such as cholera.

MacDuff Phiri, Christian Aid's Malawi Country Manager, described the floods as "catastrophic".

"The impact has been huge. The majority of people here live on less than US$1 a day, and everything they own has been washed away. It means they need to rebuild their lives, which isn't going to be easy. Some people might be able to recover completely; others will not be able to do so. As a result, poverty levels will deepen in some areas," he said.

"Countries like Malawi are very susceptible to malaria. Lots of rain means more mosquitoes breeding, and more mosquitos breeding means more malaria. There is also a risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, which could kill more people than the floods themselves. That's why one priority for Christian Aid is to distribute insecticide-treated nets and water treatment supplies to enable people to collect safe water."

Christian Aid reports that the affected districts lost their food reserves in the flood. Malawi is largely dependent on agriculture as their food resource and the catastrophe has made it hard for farmers to provide for their families. An estimated 7,000 hectares of crops in Chikwawa and a further 8,000 hectares in Nsanje were completely destroyed. Currently, the World Food Programme is providing food to affected families.

According to Malawi Meteorological Department, a forecast of heavy rainfall will persist until March which is expected to worsen the country's situation.