Malawi

Malawi: President Muluzi declares state of disaster as floods kill seven people

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by Samuel Chunga - Communications
Malawians in most parts of the country spent Monday, January 13, in rare respite from torrential rains that have fallen almost daily over the past two weeks, causing heavy floods across the country. President Bakili Muluzi has declared a state of disaster, after the floods killed seven people and wreaked havoc on houses, crops and property, aggravating the people's suffering in the face of the current food crisis.

The Malawi leader, who toured some of the affected areas across the country, specifically declared Salima and Ntcheu, in Central Malawi, Balaka in the South and Karonga in the North as disaster areas. He said the government, which is still assessing the extent of the damage, especially as some places were still impassable, would do everything possible to assist the people affected.

"I appeal to our development partners, the entire international donor community, as well as local institutions and all people of goodwill, to donate more food and non-food assistance for alleviating the suffering of our poor people," President Muluzi pleaded.

Malawians, whose rainy season officially commences in mid-October, were worried and prayed fervently when the rains never fell in earnest in most parts of the country until mid-December. But when the rains came, precipitated by tropical Cyclone Delfina which blew into southern Malawi from neighboring Mozambique, they did so with a vengeance.

The Meteorological Department daily bulletins usually announced several areas as having registered abnormally high rainfall of up to 100 millimeters per day, as the deluges fell four or five times in a day.

Meanwhile, several World Vision Malawi Area Development Programs (ADPs) have reported damage to houses, crops, livestocks and possessions due to the floods. These include the World Vision United States-funded Senzani Area Development Program, in central Malawi, where raging flood water took down the imposing 56.3-meter, US$150,000 Lisungwi Bridge, over the Lisungwi River, and also destroyed crops belonging to at least 100 farmers in the area. Upstream, the flood water in the same Lisungwi River also wreaked havoc in the World Vision Hong Kong-funded Midzemba Project, in southern Malawi, where some 52 farmers lost 70 hectares of crops.

In another World Vision United States-funded Area Development Program, Chingale, in southern Malawi, when the Rivirivi River burst its banks, eight hectares of rice and 4 hectares of maize, belonging to 200 farmers under a budding irrigation scheme, were washed away. The floods also affected the World Vision Canada-funded Wovwe Area Development Program (ADP), in northern Malawi, where 87 families were adversely hit. Damage assessment and disaster alertness is continuing in the Area Development Programs.

Before Cyclone Delfina struck, the World Vision New Zealand-funded Mikolongwe Area Development Program, in southern Malawi, was buffeted by a hurricane that blew off roofs of 40 houses, 14 with iron sheets, forcing some 15 desperate families to shelter in a nearby church for over a week. The hurricane also destroyed crops in 11 hectares of gardens. On New Year's eve, the Area Development Program provided relief assistance worth K150,000 (US$1,704), in the form of food and plastic sheets for roofing. The Area Development Program also provided 0.16 metric tons of seed and 60 iron sheets to seven families, including five families for Children In Program (CIP).

Meanwhile, the World Vision Malawi Field Ministries Division is compiling reports on all aspects of the disaster in the Area Development Programs. Project personnel have been instructed to promptly report any incident adversely affecting the project people inside a 24 hour period and have been advised to immediately intervene in order to alleviate the people's suffering.