Since early January 2015 the southern districts of Malawi have been experiencing above-normal rains, which have provoked massive floods along the Shire and Ruo rivers. Preliminary reports indicate that the floods have left at least 174,000 people displaced, (final numbers are still being verified), with 62 deaths and 153 people still missing. However, this number is expected to rise as more information is received and analysed, and rains continue to fall. The situation prompted the President of the Republic of Malawi to declare a State of Emergency on 13 January in 15 districts (out of a total of 28): Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, Zomba, Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Thyolo, Mulanje, Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi,
Ntcheu, Salima, Rumphi and Karonga.
The most affected districts are Chikwawa, Nsanje and Phalombe. In the declaration the President appealed to the international community for assistance, particularly in conducting search and rescue operations and in the provision of tents, food and non-food items. The Malawi Defence Force has been conducting rescue operations by boat, with support from the UN, as requested by the Malawi Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA).
The floods have damaged infrastructure, including roads and bridges. Farmland and homes have been submerged and people forced to move to higher ground. Most of those displaced are living in displacement sites such as churches, schools, community buildings and camps. Some are hosted by relatives. Around 26,000 people remain isolated, requiring boats or helicopters for immediate rescue or support making access difficult for the provision of relief.
The displacement sites are crowded (35 people live in a family tent made for 8 and more than 600 households are camping in one school). There is a lack of basic services such as water, sanitation and hygiene, raising concerns over possible disease outbreaks. Registration at camps is not being consistently undertaken. There are also unaccompanied children at displacement sites who have been separated from their parents. So far, no tracing has been conducted. This situation may lead to protection issues.
Around 234 schools were damaged and 181 are currently used as relocation sites for displaced people who have lost their home in the floods (a total of 415 schools affected). An estimated 200,000 students are not able to attend school due to their schools being flooded or occupied by those who require temporary shelters. Health centres are also damaged and/or lack of personnel and medical supplies to cope with the needs of displaced populations.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.