Malawi battles as more rains hamper relief

Rescue SA’s team doctors have now treated 120 patients with malaria being the most common diagnosis.

Residents of Phaloni are forced to navigate what was once a soccer pitch by boat on 22 January,2015 after the Sombani River flooded due to heavy rains. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

MALAWI - After nearly 15 days without any relief aid, more than 300 people in a cluster of villages in Malawi's east bank have received much needed supplies from Rescue South Africa.

The team spent two nights in the bush after their military trucks broke down due to damaged roads.

Rescue SA team members battle to free a truck used to deliver food aid to flood victims from the mud on 24 January 2015.

Heavy rain over the past two weeks has left more than 50 people dead and more than 150 others missing.

After failing to get their equipment from Johannesburg, Rescue South Africa has finally reached some isolated villages.

Rescue South Africa technician, Marius De Toit, says for many people in the Mkhaba villages, the relief aid brought an end to more than two weeks of uncertainty of how they would survive.

"Whenever we get to these villages and we open the back of the trucks, the people who were displaced for 15 days or maybe more were begging for food and you can see their gratefulness."

Du Toit says the terrain en route to the villages was treacherous, but they managed to get the trucks through.

"Villages on the east band of the affected area, specifically where no vehicle could reach, we managed to cross the rivers that were quite a challenge."

The team will now head off to other surrounding villages in need of aid and man power to repair collapsed bridges and damaged roads.

HEAVY RAINS

Another day of heavy rain in the Malawi mountains has once again caused flash flooding along the Shire River which broke its banks two weeks ago and destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the south and eastern parts of the country.

The water levels have now subsided and although another heavy storm is unlikely, sporadic rains remain a big risk.

Rescue South Africa's Peter van de Sper says the team was delayed for about two hours.

"We received quite a lot of rain coming from on top of a mountain in a catchment area which caused quite a lot of fast moving water across the bridges, restricted access, we stood by quite a long time.

The team's doctors have now treated 120 patients in the north of Malawi who have been affected by flooding, with malaria emerging as the most common diagnosis.

There is an increased risk of disease and a malaria outbreak following the floods which have now left close to 250,000 people displaced.

Residents of Phaloni navigate parts of their flooded village.

Rescue South Africa has sent three doctors to a private clinic in the northern Mulanje District to treat people displaced by the floods.

A team doctor says they have managed to set up an efficient system.

"Majority of these patients are infected with malaria."

He says that doctors are only providing primary healthcare and will be returning to the main camp soon.

"We have spoken to them, they have provided services, they have got a system in place and have other staff that is now continuing the system so we can actually get back to the team."

Meanwhile in Chikwawa, relief group Doctors Without Borders started treating patients at the Bangula camp where malaria and HIV and Aids are the most common reported illnesses.

Boys fish from a railway track which was swept away by flash floods from the Ntamoyo River in Bangula on 23 January, 2015.

NEEDS OF MALAWI FLOOD SURVIVORS UNMET

Two weeks after floods first swept across Southern Africa, tens of thousands of people urgently need clean water, food, shelter and medical care, aid agencies said, as more rain was forecast for worst-affected Malawi.

Torrential rain triggered floods in early January, affecting some 900,000 people across Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, with almost 250,000 people forced to leave their homes, the United Nations said this week.

In Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries with a population of 16 million, 62 people have been confirmed dead and 153 registered as missing.

Maize plants, which are a staple crop in Malawi, were destroyed by floodwaters in several districts.

Aid groups said more funding was needed to provide basics such as food, and water and sanitation to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases including diarrhoea, malaria and cholera.

The floods, the worst the region has seen in decades, have submerged wells, washed away fields and livestock, and destroyed roads and bridges making it hard for aid groups to reach the hardest-hit areas to assess needs.

Thousands of people have been trapped in remote or flooded areas, cut off from medical care and other aid. Others are staying in cramped emergency shelters, where the risk of infectious diseases is high, aid workers said.

Images: Aletta Gardner