MALAWI: Mybell Ngomba, "Something must be done quickly before we start losing people to cholera"

News and Press Release
Originally published
KARONGA, 8 January 2010 (IRIN) - Mybell Ngomba was one of thousands who lost their homes to earthquakes that struck Malawi's northern district of Karonga between 6 and 27 December. More than 4,600 households were left needing urgent humanitarian assistance and, according to Ngomba, emergency shelter tops the list of priorities.

"My house is one of many that collapsed in my village. It was only three months old but now what remains is a mound of rubble.

"The earthquakes came as a big surprise to many of us. We were sleeping when the first earthquake struck. Many houses, including mine, had some cracks, which I thought were not serious but the last earthquake's impact was big. It was this earthquake that brought my house down.

"Today, I am living in a grass thatched shack and life is really tough for me. I am a widow living with my six grandchildren. By now I should have been in my garden tending to my crops but I cannot.

"Most of the families are sleeping outside their houses. We are all scared because we hear the earthquakes will strike again anytime soon.

"Tufwire tata [we are in deep sorrow]. We need so many things, from plastic sheets for roofing to food items as well.

"The only relief item I received was a 20m plastic sheet, which is hardly enough to cover the roof of my shack. It is the rainy season here and you can imagine what we are going through when it pours.

"The plastic sheets need frequent replacing because they are not strong enough to withstand the heat here. I feel that aid such as beans, sugar, cooking oil, rice and maize should have come second after family tents and plastic sheets.

"Let the government help the people by providing them with shelter. Living in communal tents means there is no privacy for families. There is overcrowding at the designated camps.

"People also need safe drinking water. At the moment there are only a few points where we collect water for domestic use. We risk cases of cholera if we compromise on hygiene. Something must be done quickly before we start losing people to cholera and other infections."