Malawi : Cyclone Freddy survivors look for sustainable means

Issues of cyclones and climate change have been top of the agenda of the world rich countries. These countries have set up action to mitigate the impact of cyclones and effects through protocols.

According to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report for 2022, over the past 50 years, 1942 disasters have been attributed to Tropical Cyclones Freddy, which has killed 779 324 people and caused US$ 1 407.6 billion in economic losses at an average of 43 deaths and US$ 78 million in damages every day.

However, Malawi has been ravaged by Cyclone Freddy ,which has unleashed six months’ worth of rainfall in the southern African country causing extensive damages.

Speaking in an interview with one of survivor’s from Phalombe district in Malawi, Fayisoni Makini said most of the individuals have severely been affected as their properties were washed away by cyclone freddy.

“We need to continue receiving support from other foreign countries as Malawi government cannot come up with the solution to assist each and every member who is affected by cyclone freddy. We do not have a place to stay because our houses were swept away ,so our appeal is to ask donors to keep on supporting us in this terrible period,” Makini said.

Director of the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Service, Lucy Mtilatila, has concurred with Makini, a survivor of Cyclone Freddy, that the cyclone has had a significant impact on Malawians. The displacement of women, adolescent girls, and children has led to overcrowding in shelters, increasing the risk of sexual violence. Additionally, the lack of privacy has limited the effectiveness of response interventions, and disrupted safe spaces for children.

“All the displaced households have lost their belongings including food reserves as they lost their homes. In addition, most of the displaced people are in « hard-to-reach » areas due to road infrastructure damage rendering those areas inaccessible to motor vehicles,” Mtilatila said.

Dr. Russell Chidya, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Water and Sanitation within the Faculty of Environmental Sciences at Mzuzu University-Malawi, has commented on the situation, stating that Cyclone Freddy has further worsened the impact of the ongoing cholera outbreak in the flood-affected districts. The outbreak, which began in March 2022, has rapidly spread to nearly all of the 29 districts in Malawi.

Dr Chidya said, due to the loss of homes, crops and livestock, many survivors lack basic needs such as food and drinking water.

“Many remote areas in affected districts roads are cut off, thousands have lost their homes, crops and livestocks. The storm caused more than 11,000 people  homeless and seeking shelter in temporary camps. The right to good shelter and housing has been compromised,” He explains.

Dr Chidya added that, the storm also caused landslides in some parts of the affected districts triggering siltation, and deposition of mud and debris deposits in many streams and rivers.

According to Dr. Russell Chidya, many key locations such as marketplaces, hospitals, and schools remain inaccessible due to damaged infrastructure including roads, shops, houses, and offices. Despite the efforts of Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and other well-wishers in providing support to the affected victims and survivors, the assistance is still insufficient to meet the needs of those affected by the cyclone.

Dr. Chidya has also pointed out that Cyclone Freddy has increased the risk of the spread of communicable diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and diarrhea. The floods have washed away toilets, destroyed or contaminated community shallow wells, and damaged urban water supply networks, resulting in a lack of access to safe drinking water for many people in the affected areas.

Ellen Sanga


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