We are thankful for all the people who have been praying for us and for Malawi, and for all the donations that people have made to help flood victims. If you want to help, you can donate here. Our family life goes on as normal, but many Malawians are a long way from recovering.
In Malawi, an estimated 125,000 people have been displaced. As of 25 March 2019, the number of displaced in Mozambique had risen to 128,941 (according to Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management). Through meetings at work, I have heard reports that some displaced Mozambicans are entering Malawi to seek help. The number of people affected in Mozambique has risen to 1.8 million, and the number of deaths has risen to 534. Now we have entered the second stage of the disaster with five confirmed cases of cholera reported in Mozambique yesterday. This was feared, but also predicted, given the state of Beira and the surrounding area.
Last weekend Bird Boy visited a village about an hour south-east of Blantyre. He went with a Malawian colleague who was going to check on his village house and his recently widowed mother. You won’t see pictures of this village on the TV but the effects it has to deal with are very typical for all of southern Malawi.
One thing that surprised Bird Boy was how little the village people knew about the situation. They only knew that they had experienced torrential rain for an extended time. They hadn’t heard of a cyclone. They didn’t know anything about the rest of Malawi or Mozambique or Zimbabwe being affected even though these places are less than 100 km from their home.
About half the houses in the village were destroyed, and, so far, there has been no relief help (for an example see the banner pic for this post). They are not in as desperate a state as others in Malawi but they are sleeping three or four families per tiny home and trying to rebuild their lives as best they can. Unfortunately, they are re-building with the same materials that failed them this time. All they have is mud, so that is what they rebuild with.
One thing that has struck me is the number of displaced people in Malawi. It is almost as high as Mozambique. I believe this is partially due to poor housing construction in Malawi. Most Malawians build their own houses using materials at hand (see pic below). The typical village home is made of mud bricks, a dirt floor and a grass or metal roof. In rural areas, almost all homes leak and are prone to collapsing in heavy rain (see pic above). There are such high numbers of displaced people in Malawi because of substandard housing and substandard housing is a result of, among other factors, economic poverty. There have been far more deaths in Mozambique, but the number of people living in schools, in shelters, in tents, or even in the open, is almost as high in Malawi.
Relief agencies are in high gear. At work (CARD) I have been writing proposal after proposal for relief efforts. These first proposals are for the immediate response and include emergency items such as food, plastic sheets, cooking pots, water buckets and chlorine to treat water. The next proposals include agricultural items to help people reclaim their livelihoods. About 80% of Malawians are farmers, and they have lost crops and livestock.
And then what’s next? What about these homes? A few organizations will provide building materials, but they won’t meet the need. From the damage estimates, they won’t even come close. If Malawians rebuild their homes the same way, what will happen the next time we have rains and floods like this? It happened in 2015. It happened in 2019. It will happen again.
This is when I start to feel the scope of this disaster. Hundreds of thousands of Malawians are suffering and will continue to suffer. They need better housing—which is only one amongst so many challenges they face—but they can’t afford it. While I write proposals around the clock, I feel like I’m doing such a tiny bit to help. I can’t do much in the face of this disaster. It’s too big for any person or organization or consortium of organizations, so I pray and ask God to do more than we can ask or imagine.
Photo credits this post go to Bird Boy and his cell phone.