Scenes of “complete desolation” revealed in flooded villages in Malawi

Scenes of “complete desolation” revealed in flooded villages in Malawi

28 March 2019

A Concern worker today described scenes of “complete desolation” following a visit by boat to villages and towns cut off by flood waters in one of the worst hit areas along the Malawi/Mozambique border.

“We passed endless abandoned villages.  Only the skeletal remains of wood houses remained, some still sitting in four or five feet of water” Concern’s Gavin Douglas said. “It was complete desolation.  Whole villages have just been swept away.”

During his trip to an area south of Nsanje on the southern tip of Malawi, he met a number of local people who had returned to fish for food and to start repairing their homes. “They were too frightened to bring their families back with them in case the floods would return,” he said. “The floods came so fast, they left with only the clothes on their backs and a few bits and pieces.  They have lost everything. The strength of the floods took everything with it. There is nothing left on the ground, only soaked earth.  They have lost vast amounts of crops they were relying on.” 

“It was very hard to process the sheer scale of the destruction,” Gavin said.

Gavin and his team left their boat at one point and trekked across a field to visit a village a few kilometres inland.  “It was hard to believe that last month this was a maize field almost ready for harvest,” he recounted.  “Now it resembled a bog with large streams of water flowing through it.  We were knee deep in mud by the time we got to the village.”

Many of the residents they met during their trip had returned to fish, as there is a shortage of food in the displacement camps where people had fled to. “The only thing on the minds of the people I met during our trip was food and shelter,” he said. 

The previous day Gavin visited the displacement camp where many of the residents of these abandoned towns and villages are currently staying.   

“Aid is slow in coming to the camp.  The people have not received a food delivery in six days,” he said.  “There are more than 11,000 people staying there – mainly women and children.  The camp, in the grounds of a school, has less than 20 toilets for the entire camp population. There is a real threat of cholera and other water-borne diseases.  It is very apparent a bigger crisis is looming,” he warned.

Over 800,000 people have been affected by the flooding in the wake of Cyclone Idai in Malawi, with 87,000 displaced, 59 dead and 672 injured.

The districts of Nsanje and Phalombe in southern Malawi (where Concern has been working for a number of years) are among the worst areas affected by flooding.

Concern is working with staff in the camps to construct latrines and bathrooms and to provide safe water supplies.  This week it will commence distributing emergency kits containing essential items such as plastic sheeting, cooking utensils, mosquito nets and soap to those who are displaced.  Concern is aiming to provide relief support to 45,000 people in the coming days and weeks.

With rain continuing to fall, the flood waters are only subsiding slowly.  However, once they decline sufficiently to allow people return home, they will have a short time period to plant a ‘winter’ crop. “If they do not plant by March/April (for a crop which will be ready in June/July) they will have to wait until September/October to plant the summer crops which will not be ready to harvest until this time next year,” Concern’s Country Director in Malawi Yousaf Jogezai explained.

Concern will provide people with tools and seeds, along with cash transfers to assist people restore their homes and non-agriculture livelihoods.  It is aiming to assist 90,000 people with these supports.

ENDS

For more information contact Siobhán Sheerin, Senior Communications Officer Concern Worldwide (UK) on  020 7801 1046