The United States-based charity Samarian Purse International Relief is building temporary shelters for families so that they continue living together happily despite trauma caused by floods.
Shelter specialist, Chris Kinzer says the charity is planning to build about 400 shelters for displaced families at Nyachilenga Camp in worst hit Nsanje district.
“Here at the Nyachilenga Camp we are distributing timbers and plastic sheeting. We have trained carpenters who going to be providing for the people but the idea is that we train the beneficiaries who will help us to rebuild their own homes,” says Kinzer.
He says the organization has come in after noticing that many flood survivors especially families are lacking privacy due to shortage of shelters to accommodate each and every families.
The floods, the worst to hit the southern African country in 15-years, have affected 600,000 people in 15 of the country’s 28 districts.
Since their relocation to temporary camps in January men and women in the camps have been sleeping separately regardless of their marital status.
A visit to some camps revealed that 600 displaced people share only 20 tents which accommodate a minimum of15 people depending on the size.
The occupants are separated by sex and not by age. Children share the tents with adults. Camp supervisors said this is because of shortage of tents that would allow families to live under one roof.
And some chiefs have banned couples to have sex within the camp until they return to their respective areas, a move that has angered many married people.
Chief Kusowa is one of 10 chiefs whose villages are at Mchenga camp in Chikwawa district. He told Nyasa Timesthat the ban aims to instill a sense of morality at the camp which he said was slowly going down.
“As chiefs we can’t allow men inconveniencing other people just because they want to use the communal tent with their wives. This is immorality. We have told them to wait until they have own shelters. Some of us spend two years in South Africa without our wives so I can’t see any problem now,” he said.
Kusowa said he ban will be lifted once there are enough tents to cater for each and every family. But married people say the ban violates of their conjugal rights.
“We are very concerned with the ban. You know we came here in January and its two months now so we can’t stay until April when we are expected to leave here. This will make some men start chasing other women somewhere to fulfill our desires hence contracting sexually transmitted diseases,” said Labson Chilenje.
Chilenje says he wonders why the chiefs are allowing some organizations to distribute condoms to flood survivors while they don’t allow men to meet their wives “so where do they think we will use these condoms?”
He said before the ban, men would arrange with their wives to meet within the camp “and their no problem until some unmarried people complained to the chiefs that we are inconveniencing them.”
Lukas Dowe of Nyachilenga camp in Nsanje district says he got married two months before floods swept their house and belongings.
“We have left the camp and rent a shelter nearby so that we should continue living as a man and woman”.
Another family man Daniel Langa said some people would take their women to nearby bush a situation he says is sometimes degrading.
It is believed that the initiative by the Samaritan Purse International Relief will make a difference.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :