— FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE —
NEW YORK — Concern Worldwide U.S. has announced an immediate humanitarian response to the severe flooding in Malawi, which has affected more than 900,000 people, leaving more than 125,000 homeless.
Malawi’s damage is just part of the massive impact of Cyclone Idai, which also carried torrential rains and 120 mph winds across neighboring Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well. The toll continues to mount as floodwaters subside and isolated communities are reached. In all, at least 2 million people are affected across the region, with at least 300 deaths.
“We are currently facing a very dangerous situation… there is a real risk of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and malaria.”
The Malawian government had already declared a State of National Disaster on March 8 following heavy rains and floods in its southern region when Cyclone Idai hit over the weekend. The more than 125,000 now displaced are scattered across 173 makeshift camps.
“We are currently facing a very dangerous situation where latrines have been damaged and where there are insufficient numbers of toilets and bathrooms in temporary camps,” Concern’s Country Director in Malawi Yousaf Jogezai said. “This, combined with high water levels, means there is a real risk of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and malaria.”
“This is a double disaster for communities in southern Malawi… Just a month before the maize harvest… between 80% and 100% of the harvest has been lost.”
Concern is seeking funding for its emergency response at concernusa.org/floods. Its first phase includes providing essential items such as cooking utensils, mosquito nets, soap and other materials including plastic sheeting for immediate shelter for up to 5,000 flood-affected households (22,500 people). The organization expects to expand its response in the coming days, constructing emergency latrines and showers and training people in emergency health and hygiene.
“This is a double disaster for communities in southern Malawi where, even prior to the latest flooding, 3.4 million people were food insecure,” Mr Jogezai said. “Now, just a month before the maize harvest — what was a very rich crop — has been destroyed. Between 80% and 100% of the harvest has been lost.”
Maize is the dominant crop and staple in Malawi. Those affected will require food and cash support for at least the next three months to stave off hunger.
“This may be the most devastating such disaster in the region’s history, and its damage can escalate quickly if we do not act immediately. We must prevent a second wave of destruction.”
“Once the flood waters subside, people will need seeds and tools to enable them commence replanting,” he said. “Work will also be needed to rehabilitate irrigation systems damaged by the floods.”
Concern Worldwide has been in Malawi since 2002, and has worked with communities in Nsanje since 2009 and Phalombe since 2015. Both districts have been severely affected by the floods. According to the latest inter agency assessment report, 183,000 people have been affected by the floods and 25,000 have been displaced in these two districts. Nearly 38,000 families have lost crops, livestock. Key roads and other infrastructure have been damaged.
“Concern’s team on the ground in Malawi is responding in the face of difficult conditions, working with families who have lost everything, but much more support from the public and the international community is desperately needed – right now,” said Concern Worldwide U.S. CEO Colleen Kelly. “This may be the most devastating such disaster in the region’s history, and its damage can escalate quickly if we do not act immediately. We must prevent a second wave of destruction from additional flooding, crop loss, hunger, and potential disease.”
Concern’s key activities in the early phase of its emergency response will be:
- Provision of non-food Items in 12 camps to meet basic needs (cooking utensils, mosquito nets, soap and other materials including plastic sheeting to provide immediate shelter and preserve the dignity of flood-affected households).
- Establishing basic latrines and showers (separate for men/women) iin 12 camps, plus training in hygiene best practices in the camp context to help prevent cholera and waterborne diseases. As part of this work, Concern will work with the Ministry of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) to train and support local community members to work as health and hygiene promoters in camps and affected areas.
The second phase of the response is expected from April/May onwards and will focus on recovery and resilience. It will include providing agriculture-related items (seeds, tools, etc.) to help people produce a “winter crop” which will be feasible in the currently flooded areas as moisture will be retained. This support will be supplemented by cash transfers, which will enable families to restore their homes and livelihoods.
Notes for the Editor
- The floods are the latest in a series of weather disasters to affect Malawi in recent years. The country was hit by serious flooding in 2015 and 2018, and experienced droughts and prolonged dry spells in 2016, 2017 and last year.
- With a population of approximately 17 million, Malawi is considered among the poorest countries in the world. It ranked 171 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index in 2017.
- Concern Worldwide has worked in Malawi since 2002, implementing and scaling up innovative approaches to tackling poverty. Its team currently work in the following districts: Nsanje, Mangochi, Phalombe, Mchinji and Mulanje. Its focus is on ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable individuals and households have access to the basic assets they need for a dignified, healthy life. Currently, Concern works in the sectors of livelihoods and resilience and gender equality, in addition to emergency response and preparedness activities.