From Friday, March 10, 2022 Malawi was hit by Cyclone Freddy, which has resulted to over 500 confirmed deaths in the country, loss of livestock and property. Cyclone Freddy was characterized by heavy rains, which led to flooding and mudslides, and storms, which destroyed homes and critical infrastructure.
The impact of this cyclone has been highly pronounced in Southern Malawi, especially in Blantyre City and the surrounding districts of Phalombe, Chikhwawa, Mulanje Thyolo, Chikwawa and Chiradzulu. Due to the flooding and mudslides, thousands of people have been rendered homeless and have sought shelter in camps. The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA) has reported that over 19,000 people are living as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) in camps that have been erected in the country. The country’s President has described the cyclone’s impact as a national tragedy and has declared a State of Disaster in the Southern Region of Malawi, effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families. Until Friday, March 17, 2023, the number of households directly affected was more than 50,000
Meanwhile, site visits and media reports indicate that the IDPS are living in dire conditions characterised by poor sanitation and limited access to basic amenities including food and clothes in the camps. This situation is worrisome, especially considering Malawi is still facing a cholera outbreak that has so far claimed hundreds of lives. Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. There are fears that the poor sanitation and hygienic conditions in the camps can lead to an escalation in the number of Cholera cases, which could potentially put thousands of lives in danger.
Appeal for Support
Currently, IDPs are in need of relief items that would make their lives bearable in these hard times including food, clothes and potable water as well as hygiene products and sanitation. While there are a number of organisations that have moved in to assist with food supplies in camps, there has not been much support around improving access to better sanitation, water, hygiene, food and warmth. Further, due to limitations in resources, many of the IDPs may have to live in the camps for a long time as they have no means to move back to their former settlements that are now in ruins or have been completely razed down by the floods and mudslides. As such, some of them are in dire need of materials to repair their homes so that they are in a habitable state.
Relief project to secure lives and support households to recover from disasters
The Centre for Community Organisation and Development and its alliance partner the Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor (the Federation) – the Malawi alliance, intend to roll out a relief programme targeting IDPS who are currently living in camps across the region. In the short term, the alliance will support these camps with sanitation and hygiene solutions in an attempt to curtail any possibility of water-borne diseases and ensure that the IDPs have better access to health services.
The alliance intends to do this through the provision of water and sanitation solutions, including the construction of temporary sanitation facilities, and the provision of water treatment solutions and utensils. In addition, the alliance will also provide food rations. Currently, the supply of food rations is intermittent and some IDPs are reportedly sleeping on empty stomachs or scampering for whatever food is available.
Providing a platform for communities to tell their stories and set the rebuilding agenda
Community-led data collection after disasters is crucial for assessing the impact and identifying the needs of the affected population. In many cases, affected communities may not have the capacity to undertake such assignments due to a number of underlining factors. In this case, we want to use previous knowledge to provide training in data collection and analysis to the affected communities. The alliance will provide tools and equipment to aid data collection and analysis processes. These tools are in the form of cameras and GPS devices etc. The data collection process will employ participatory approaches by ensuring that the process has been consulted widely so that the voices of the voiceless are heard and their needs are included in the rebuilding process. This in turn will help in building trust and ensure that the data collected accurately reflects the experiences and perspectives of the entire community.
Support the rebuilding process
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, there has been extensive damage to community infrastructure, houses and WASH facilities. Other infrastructures such as power and communications are still down in many areas leaving communities in darkness. Rebuilding infrastructure such as homes, WASH facilities and roads is important for restoring normalcy to the lives of those affected by the disaster. The alliance’s plan is to recapitalise the Mchenga Urban Poor Fund to provide financial support for the rebuilding exercise; targeting the provision of houses, potable water and decent sanitation through ecological sanitation toilets.
Additionally, Cyclone Freddy will have a significant impact on the local economy. Therefore, the alliance intends to support economic recovery by helping individual households and the community to rebuild their economic lives. This will involve providing start-ups for small businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as creating jobs – through reconstruction jobs, and providing training and education opportunities.
Provide mental health support
This disaster has had a significant impact on mental health and well-being of the affected population – including children that have seen the government extending the suspension of schools until March 31, when the second term was scheduled to end. Schools have been suspended as about 230 schools have been turned into holding camps for IDPs. Thus, providing access to mental health support services, in this case, will help individuals and communities cope with the trauma of the event.
As an exit strategy, the alliance would also want to champion dialogue with authorities and other stakeholders on effective ways of managing these disasters as well as recommending measures that would reduce the vulnerability of the households when such disasters have stricken. Further, we will deploy our KYC.TV Malawi Team to document the situation in the City to champion solutions that address the vulnerabilities of the households in the medium and long terms.
**Cross posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog**
Watch this documentary film by the Pretoria Picture Company Inc. on the changing dynamics and identities of Slovo Park settlement south of Soweto. Slovo Park is also aligned to the Informal Settlement Network, and in collaboration with universities and other stakeholders, design solutions have been tabled in partnership meetings. The documentary surfaces some of the finely granulated nuances in building sustainable human settlements. According to the film makers,
Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo.
This forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Amidst the struggle, stories of sinister land dealings have emerged, outlining a possible truth that the ground beneath Slovo Park could have been sold from under the community’s feet. These allegations surface as the leadership of Slovo Park prepares itself to take action.
This video illustrates how incremental upgrading releases the imagination of communities in engaging local governments. The communities intimate understanding of infrastructure grinds and networks makes service delivery, development and ultimately sustainable human settlements possible. Buck’s, one of the community leaders, deliberations on the nature of service delivery is particularly insightful:
Because already we have got sewerage pipes that are running as far as Soweto. The one alongside the boundary road is running from as far as Leratong, and imagine we don’t have sewerage here but we can transport other people’s stuff from as “Die Kloof”. We have the dams adjacent to us; it is not even 100m to walk to the dam, and still we cant get pipes to there. But still the engineers are saying that it is impossible to have sewerage in the area. But already there are pipes running in the area and so you ask yourself, “Why is it so diffent and difficult if we must get, but the previous engineers, the previous government, installed the sewerage pipes that are running through the informal settlement that we are in”. So you ask yourself, “is it different from this year’s engineers to yesteryear’s engineers”. I don’t know how to call it, but that is what they say!
If government can’t come to us, let us do it for ourselves. We have started with a hall, which we want to expand into a multi-purpose centre for the community. We don’t have playggrounds, we don’t have parks, we don’t have a hall, which makes it difficult for kids to concentrate on their lives. So the multipurpose will help to bring them together and giving them something to do. At the same time, as the community, we will have a space to have our meetings for our offices (because we have many forums in the community, such as the business forum). My wish is to have a proper toilet, just like everyone else. Just like the premier Nomvula Mokonyane, just like our president Jacob Zuma’s toilet, that’s my wish. That has been my wish since I was a kid, and I am already 44 years old. My family has accepted this is how we will live in the meantime.