Malawians in desperate need of more supplies

More than 200,000 people have been displaced by heavy rains that caused flash flooding.

Women prepare food under the trees at a school in Bangula, where 6,500 people sought refuge after the floods destroyed their homes. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

MALAWI - While search and rescue groups begin to withdraw from Malawi's flooded districts following an end to their operation, relief organisations have warned that the displacement camps can only run for about four months and a huge amount of supplies are still needed to help those affected restart their lives.

More than 200,000 people have been displaced by heavy rains that caused flash flooding in south and east Malawi two weeks ago, with thousands of homes destroyed and bridges washed away.

The camps have been set up at schools across the areas, meaning education has come to a standstill while doctors treat diseases that have spread due to the lack of sanitation.

Manager of the Bangula displacement camp Chancy Chikwerenda says there are also 1,000 Mozambicans living among Malawians as they were forced over the border by swelling rivers and roads being washed away.

He says there are 12 toilets and 6,500 people living in this camp all in need of basic supplies.

"They need to go back and start their lives all over again and they will need some support."

Chikwerenda says they've started playing musical games for the children to boost morale because there is a sense of hopelessness among those affected.

"Some of them, like the elderly women and men, are very frail and weak and look sickly because they were in the water for a long time."

There are more than 300 camps similar to this one across the country.


Malawian President Peter Mutharika has announced that the official search and rescue segment of the relief operation in his country has been called off.

This brings to an end Rescue South Africa's one week mission to the south and eastern areas affected by flooding.

The team will be heading back to Blantyre from the Chikwawa and Nsanje districts today where they helped distribute aid in remote villages.

But there's still a desperate need for medical care and clean water from people in displacement camps and others living along the river banks.

South Africa has also sent its National Disaster Management team with two helicopters to that country and team leader Collin Diner says the damage to infrastructure has made the repair operation that much harder.

"People are sort of slowly returning into the areas, there is a lot of mud and the impression we all go flying over here is that it's going to take a very long time to repair the bridges and the railway lines."


Relief group, Doctors without Borders (MSF), says Malawi's biggest health risk now lies in its isolated villages, where water wells have been contaminated by the floods, and stagnant water is attracting malaria-infecting mosquitoes.

Doctors from around the world have been treating victims of the heavy rains and flash floods.

It's estimated 173,000 homes have been destroyed.

The teams have been transported to villages on the east bank of the Sanje district by South African national disaster management teams sent in by government to help.

MSF doctor, Amaury Gregorie, says the displacement camps have relatively safe water and food, but their concern is for people who have not sought refuge.

"Most of the villages have been badly hit so that means the sources of water have been contaminated."

Gregorie says the majority of the children they've treated under the age of five in villages have diarrhoea.

The doctors have been slow to reach remote villages due to the lack of air transport and were able to treat more than 100 people for first time today after the South African team flew them in.

Pictures by Aletta Gardner/EWN