Vast swathes of Southern Malawi were first engulfed in floods in January when more than a month’s worth of rain fell in just a matter of days. Since then, ShelterBox has been working solidly to reach some of the most vulnerable people in need of shelter.
ShelterBox response team member Andre Bloemink (CAN), tells us of his experience delivering aid in the country.
‘While working in the village of Muhasuwa, our team was able to understand on a very minute scale what these communities have faced.
‘We had been very fortunate with excellent weather during our working days, but one day the temperate peaked at 44°C and thunderheads developed throughout the day to the east.
‘With graying skies and thunder approaching rapidly, we made the decision to stay at a local school until it passed. A deluge began within minutes and instantly the roads became flooded, turning the top layers of the road to mud.
‘We decided that we needed to leave the area before the floods got too bad, but within a matter of minutes our three-ton truck had slid sideways and blocked the road. A group of 20 volunteers and local people helped us push it back on the road, but it was so slippery that it was like pushing on ice.
‘We then understood what days of relentless rain could have meant for the communities in these areas.’
It has been so difficult to access some regions that the teams are still finding areas in great need of aid, almost three months after the initial disaster.
Suffering from illness and fatigue
Andre said: ‘We have seen a repeated story within these areas, of a young, single mother with two, three or four children and a destroyed home.
‘It is often a single parent household and many of the families we met have experience of poor health, often HIV or diabetes.’
Malawi is among the world’s least developed countries and relies heavily on rural agriculture. The country also has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality, where HIV and AIDS are prevalent. Everyday life is hard in many parts of rural Malawi.
‘While the children we have met have been curious yet shy, many of the parents are suffering from fatigue, made worse by returning to crowded evacuation centres every evening after working to rescue damaged crops each day.
‘One of our beneficiaries was Eunice, who is HIV positive. She is not only the sole carer for her children, one of whom is deaf, but also looks after her mother who has health and mobility issues of her own.
‘Eunice hopes to re-build her home in June or July, which is when the reeds used to roof houses will be fully grown, but given the challenges to look after her family, this seems like an unrealistic timeline.’
The ShelterBox teams are currently working in the districts of Zomba and Mulanje. They are focusing their attention on distributing aid to people in their own communities so that they can be near to their land and their families, and can sooner rebuild their homes.
Reaching the remote areas that most need support is a long process, but your support enables us to send the supplies and ShelterBox response volunteers to do this. Thank you.