Flood survivors cry out for aid in Malawi

Frantic scenes greeted a military helicopter as it landed to deliver aid in a village after severe floods left 176 people dead and 200,000 homeless across Malawi.

Families displaced by recent floods in Malawi arrive with belongings at a primary school in the Chief Mulolo area of Nsanje district on January 18, 2015 ©Amos Gumulira (AFP)

Families displaced by recent floods in Malawi arrive with belongings at a primary school in the Chief Mulolo area of Nsanje district on January 18, 2015 ©Amos Gumulira (AFP)

People unload flood relief aid from a Malawi military helicopter as it arrives at M'bwazi Primary School in the southern Nsanje district on January 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Amos Gumulira)

People unload flood relief aid from a Malawi military helicopter as it arrives at M’bwazi Primary School in the southern Nsanje district on January 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/Amos Gumulira)

Women wash clothes in a stream caused by flood waters in a suburb of Malawi's commercial city Blantyre on January 19, 2015 ©Amos Gumulira (AFP)

Women wash clothes in a stream caused by flood waters in a suburb of Malawi’s commercial city Blantyre on January 19, 2015 ©Amos Gumulira (AFP)

A rescue team unloads goods from a canoe as it arrives in Chambuluka village on the banks of the flooded Ruo river in Malawi's southern Nsanje district on January 18, 2015- ©Amos Gumulira (AFP)

A rescue team unloads goods from a canoe as it arrives in Chambuluka village on the banks of the flooded Ruo river in Malawi’s southern Nsanje district on January 18, 2015- ©Amos Gumulira (AFP)

Flood survivors, sheltered in a local school in the village of Chimbulika in the far south of Malawi, rushed to get their hands on food and supplies as the chopper neared the schoolyard.

“It’s a great relief to hear that sound of the helicopter because we know it is bringing food,” said 58-year-old Modesta Basikolo as she made her way through the crowd of about 1,000 people.

Chimbulika is located in the worst-hit district of Nsanje which has been turned into a land of islands and lakes, with scores of people stranded on small patches of dry land.

These areas are now reachable only by helicopter or four-wheel drive vehicles.

The chopper made two turns, delivering blankets and a total of 80 bags of flour –- but that only amounted to one plate per family.

It was not enough, said Basikolo, who chairs a village protection committee that is settling the survivors at the schoolyard camp.

The government and aid groups have been “too slow to respond with relief items and food to this emergency,” she said.

“The people are barely surviving,” Basikolo said. “It’s tough here.”

“Can one helicopter bring enough food for everyone here?”

Rice farmer Matemba Bauleni, 63, was rescued with his two grandchildren by boat.

“We are begging the government to treat this as an emergency. We have not eaten for several days since we were rescued.”

In the village, where classrooms have been turned into a temporary shelter, survivors have no cooking utensils, firewood or running water. They sleep on cement floors and use pit latrines that have been dug outside.

Paul Puleni, a medical activity manager for Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) -– which has set up mobile clinics in the area -– said there was “a need for good sanitation in terms of clean and safe water”.

“We anticipate outbreaks as a result of the floods, so health education is important because one case of measles equals an outbreak,” he told AFP.

– ‘It was hell’ –

The survivors share their horror stories of the sudden torrent of water and the stream of floating bodies that followed.

“I could not believe what I saw,” said fisherman Jossam Mangawe, 44. “I am still haunted by this.”

Eliza Gift, 21, said Malawi had seen floods before, “but this time around, it was hell”.

“Within an hour, the whole area where there were villages, our gardens and schools became a lake. We saw people being swept away as I, my husband and child, clung to a tree for two days.”

She said her husband pleaded with private boat owners — who are charging up to $10 to rescue stranded people, a small fortune in a region where many work as subsistence farmers and fishermen — to evacuate them and pay them later when they find money.

“There are still people stranded out there on higher places, but these boat owners want money upfront. It’s a desperate situation,” she said.

With four schools in the area turned into camps and another four under water, classes have been cancelled.

“We have nothing,” said Bright Chipojola, headmaster of one of the flooded schools. “We lost everything. The schools lost everything.”

He pointed to a lake in the distance where his school buildings used to be: “Until Monday last week, there was no lake.”

Fisherman Medison Manuel, 28, said his boat was swept away by the floods.

“With that boat gone, my life is in tatters. I don’t know how I will survive from now on.”–AFP

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12 thoughts on “Flood survivors cry out for aid in Malawi”

  1. kalumo says:

    Uwatero anthu a Nsanje mwawathira sinjilo sadzachoka kumeneko azifuna chaka chilichonse zizitere kuti azilandira vinthuvo

  2. Time to help says:

    Groups like AMRA (Asian Muslim Relief Aid) are really trying to make an effort and reach places where people have been affected the most http://youtu.be/tAxxLDsPjLE
    Urging all Malawians to contribute.

  3. Wasinga says:

    I pray for my brothers and sisters in these difficult times.

  4. Fred Mulolo says:

    I Know My President Is Well Educated And Civilized Man, Can’t Do Such Emberassing Scam Ok.

  5. Please the almighty God, Help mother Malawi. We know that we are sinners, hence, no one can save us, but only you. Amen

  6. stocker beza says:

    lets pray for our country.

  7. victim Chamkhuni Lwazazi says:

    May the Lord continue to intervene ans saving the people and property. Amen.

  8. steven njanji says:

    Sorry

  9. Wailing Soul says:

    Amos Gumulira! Wow! With AFP now? Formerly of Daily Times and the Nation. Good photojournalism. All the best brother!

  10. Redeemed says:

    Under such terrible circumstaces how come do some people still view this as a money making scheme, instead of holding each others hands by helping where possible, pathetic mindset indeed, and yet you expect mercy from those extenal, when amongs yourselves are unable to to show it. How greedy and ruthless are you people? you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  11. nsanje port says:

    Government officials,don’t take advantage of the donations,we don’t want to hear of FLOODGATE issues,please be responsible and use the funds for intended purposes,we plead with you!

Comments are closed.