As flood waters in the south of the country threaten to remain until April, the Malawi Red Cross Society is appealing for donations to support the thousands of people affected. Having responded quickly and successfully when the floods first struck in mid-January, the Malawi Red Cross Society now says it needs urgent support to safeguard the continued supply of aid to those most in need.
“The government announced that we would be expecting a lot of rain this year so we made a contingency plan to combat that problem,” said Lawson Kasamle, secretary general of the Malawi Red Cross Society.
“Having made such a good start, if we do not get supplies and the funding to pay for them we will not be able to continue to meet the needs of the affected people and then we could see serious problems arising.”
Following weeks of heavy rain, flooding has hit many areas in southern Malawi, damaging crops and flooding villages across Mzimba, Dedza, Mangochi and Chiradizu districts - Red Cross estimates put the number of people affected at around 15,000.
Although initial aid efforts coordinated between the Red Cross, Unicef, the Malawi Government and other aid agencies have so far been effective, according to Kasamale those in flooded regions are still far from safe. “Cholera is rampant in some areas so we need to distribute more chlorine and buckets and water purification tablets. Water a foot deep is covering everything, both outside and inside the houses, and when that happens you lose all toilet and sanitation facilities, they become useless - clean and dirty water mix together and so the danger of waterborne disease is extremely high,” he explained. “If the worst comes to the worst we could be looking at the floods lasting until early April, and this is such a long period of time that, as well as basic health, food could also become a serious issue.”
Long term, the Malawi Red Cross has already instigated training for local people so they can monitor water levels and predict when floods were coming. However, due to a lack of funds, the training has so far been only carried out in a single district. “We need to do the monitoring training in more of the affected areas but so far we have not had the funds,” said Kasamale.
The Malawi Red Cross Society has also been working with the government to educate people to move away from areas vulnerable to flooding, but this has proved a hard sell. “Understandably people don’t want to leave their fields and livelihoods and places where they and their families have lived for generations,” explained the secretary general. “Getting people to move is a real challenge for us and for the government because the flooding problem is not going to go away.”