George Mhango
January 27, 2015

With more rains expected in flood-stricken Malawi and camps for displaced people overwhelmed, Oxfam and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have launched an emergency appeal for more help to 42,000 desperate people.

Weeks of very heavy rainfall have triggered widespread flooding in Malawi.
Weeks of very heavy rainfall have triggered widespread flooding in Malawi.

The donation by Oxfam is one of the major ones an international organisation has provided to victims in the country.

Although heavy rains have ceased for now, there is a forecast that the downpour could continue for weeks, a development that Oxfam thinks needs continued care in areas of health, education and agriculture.

Figures of how many people have been displaced still need to be verified but one count suggests at least 174 000. The Malawi government estimates that in total 630,000 people have been affected.

The appeal will support emergency operations of the Malawi Red Cross Society which is already aiding thousands of destitute people in the worst-affected southern districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe and urban Blantyre. It targets the immediate needs of 7,660 households for nine months.

As weather experts forecast continued rainfall, authorities lament that women are the worst affected as they fail to access medical care due to poor road networks. Women and adolescent girls in some parts of Mangochi, Nsanje and Phalombe have slim chances of getting the support they need.

Some women feel there is need for more support towards their challenges. Last week, a woman delivered at her home, enough a sign that health care has been affected by poor road network. According to her, even the hospital where she could have gone for assistance was damaged by floods rendering it useless.

Oxfam organisation has since distributed pails for drawing water and bathing, laundry soap and bath soap, two pieces of wrap-around, sanitary pads and cloth and petroleum jelly to enable them maintain dignity in the camps until they return home. The assistance is valued at 76 million Malawi Kwacha.

The initiative from Oxfam follows surveys that women and adolescent girls have special needs during disasters which should not be ignored.

According to Oxfam country finance manager Felix Muyaso, the assistance was meant to bolster their livelihoods. Muyaso adds that they are yet to secure more funding so that more people could be assisted within the catchment areas of Mulanje, Phalombe and others across the country.

“Our operations also lean towards pregnant women and young people and during disasters they ensure that pregnant and adolescent girls have continued antenatal care and clean and safe delivery,” said Muyaso, adding that, “we are geared to assisting more families even in terms of winter cropping because we believe that one’s health and sanitation is paramount.”

Floods are a capricious part of life for many Malawians
Floods are a capricious part of life for many Malawians

In all the camps, the number of affected women and girls far outnumber those of boys and men such as Nkhudzi Bay Primary School in Mangochi, where out of 227 people, 141 are women and girls.

However, other flood victims have called for equal distribution of relief support as opposed to the current situation where more aid according to them is being channeled to districts in the South leaving out the north, east and central. And Oxfam officials say they are geared at making this problem history considering the $500 000 amount they are to set aside for winter cropping and other ventures.

Floods have elsewhere in the country claimed 176 lives, injured many and destroyed property.

President Peter Mutharika declared Malawi a State of Disaster and called for international and local assistance.

Mutharika has also announced that as one way of minimizing disasters, government plans to introduce a ‘first of its kind’ national disaster policy. But that announcement comes as a shock because the country already has a draft Disaster Risk Management (DRM) that, for the past six years, has stalled waiting for cabinet approval. The draft DRM policy, in what is a great paradox, has almost all the provisions which the President—while speaking to flood victims—said will be incorporated in the national policy.

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