She lost everything except the spirit of volunteerism in Malawi’s floods

Publié: 10 mars 2015 6:00 CET

By Erin Law, IFRC

When the flood waters started to rise near her home in Nsanje, Malawi, Red Cross volunteer Febbi Kalenga knew that she had to move her family to higher ground. She fled to Bangula, where she joined others who had lost everything in Malawi’s worst floods in two generations.

Febbi now lives in the temporary camp in Bangula along with 6,000 others who have also lost their homes, their crops and their livelihoods. Conditions are difficult for Febbi, a single mother of seven, who struggles daily to feed her children. All eight family members currently live in a tent provided by the Malawi Red Cross Society.

Despite the challenges she is facing, Febbi feels compelled to help other families who are sharing her struggle. Febbi has been a Red Cross volunteer for 12 years with the local Nsanje branch and the floods have not dampened her spirit of volunteerism. She has been working around the clock to assist those in need. Every day, she visits people in their tents, spreading hygiene promotion messages, checking if anyone is ill and needs care, and assisting camp managers with relief and food distribution.

She reassures a camp resident who was in tears because she had missed out on a food distribution. Febbi explains that being asked for help is common, "When people have a problem in the camp they come to the Red Cross volunteers. They come to us for health problems. They come if they have no food. They come for everything! They know we understand them and that we will try to help where we can."

Now Febbi faces a new challenge. Cholera has broken out in Nsanje and poses a significant threat to those displaced by the flood waters. It is vital to the health and survival of the camp residents that cholera does not spread into Bangula camp.

To help with the prevention effort, Febbi is participating in cholera prevention training run by the Malawi Red Cross Society, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the Ministry of Health. The Red Cross is conducting the same training in four flood-affected districts, reaching 250 volunteers.

During her training, Febbi is learning the key hygiene messages that will help prevent the spread of cholera, the key symptoms of cholera, how and when to refer ill people for treatment, and the basic recommendations for preparing and administering oral rehydration solution, which is the first option for treatment.

Through an emergency appeal, IFRC has been supporting the Malawi Red Cross Society to respond to the flood crisis since early January. With the reality of the situation becoming clear, and at least 230,000 now homeless because of the floods, IFRC has revised its emergency appeal and is now seeking 4 million Swiss francs to allow Red Cross volunteers to continue distributing tents and shelter materials, kitchen utensils, blankets and mosquito nets. Teams of staff and volunteers are also restoring water sources, desludging contaminated latrines and building new latrine facilities.  The appeal addresses the immediate needs of 46,712 displaced people, while also seeking to reduce the impact of the loss of crops and livelihoods, and help communities become more resilient to future floods. The appeal is currently 37 per cent funded.


La Fédération internationale des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge constitue, avec ses 190 Sociétés nationales membres, le plus vaste réseau humanitaire du monde. En tant que membres du Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, nous sommes guidés dans notre travail par sept Principes fondamentaux: humanité, impartialité, neutralité, indépendance, volontariat, unité et universalité.