Status of a village in Chikwawa after the floods
* To provide vital assistance in the next three months to 542,000 people
* Affected areas include Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Mulanje, Chiradzulu and Balaka
* Where an estimated 680,000 people are in need of life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance and protection
By Duncan Mlanjira
In support of Malawi Government and its local charitable and corporate organisations’ response to Tropical Storm Ana, the country’s humanitarian partners have launched a ‘flash appeal’ that urgently seeks US$29.4 million to provide vital assistance in the next three months to 542,000 people who have been hardest hit by the floods.
Over 990,000 people were affected by the Tropical Storm Ana that passed through many districts in the Southern Region in January, leaving behind devastation and destruction.
A statement from United Nations Resident Coordinator Shigeki Komatsubara says the Flash Appeal focuses on six hardest-hit districts of Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Mulanje, Chiradzulu and Balaka where an estimated 680,000 people are in need of life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance and protection.
“The Flash Appeal brings together the most time-sensitive and critical response activities of 44 partners — the Malawi Red Cross, seven national NGOs, 26 international NGOs and 10 UN agencies — and all of the work carried out under the appeal will directly complement the Government of Malawi’s ongoing relief efforts.
“We have worked hard to ensure that this appeal is prioritized and principled, and we are confident that the activities planned are those that are most urgently needed to deliver immediate relief to the people who need it most,” Komatsubara is quoted as saying in the statement.
“While we are conscious that humanitarian support is not a long-term solution to the recurrent climatic shocks that continue to increase in frequency and intensity in Malawi, we are faced today with an urgent need to act swiftly to save the lives and livelihoods of those whose homes and crops have been upended by Tropical Storm Ana.”
Expressing appreciation for the solidarity already shown by the international community in response to Tropical Storm Ana — including the $3 million allocated by the United Nations, Komatsubara called for further support to the people of Malawi at this extremely challenging time.
Last week, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) was accused of selective distribution of relief aid to affected families of floods in Balaka, which DoDma denied — saying it does not distribute disaster relief items but rather hand them over to District Councils.
DoDMA said they only offer direction based on reports from the District Commissioners, who in turn identify the needy beneficiaries.
The accusations of selective distribution of relief aid came after only one area of Phimbi in Balaka South was observed to be concentrated on despite official reports of plenty of others in the area.
There have been distribution exercises in Balaka which concerned people thought were organised by DoDMA in the past weeks for relief items, which excluded several of the most affected families in Nkaya while concentrating only on Mphimbi.
A report by Malawi News Agency (MANA) last week indicated that Gift of the Givers Foundation reached out to some 500 households in Phalula and Chanthunya in Balaka for various food and no-food items.
The report further said over 7,515 households in Balaka were affected by Cyclone Ana which forced many of them to relocate by seeking refuge in relief camps — most of which were churches and schools.
Project officer for Gift of the Givers, Innocent Mankhwazi told MANA that this was their third visit to Balaka where they distributed items such as food stuffs, shoes, as well as household utensils for affected families in T/A Kalembo, Amidu and Nkaya (Balaka South).
When contacted Balaka South Member of Parliament Ireen Mambala denied having any knowledge of the Gift of the Givers reaching out to the affected three camps in her Constituency as reported by MANA, saying only Phimbi was assisted.
Gift of the Givers also confirmed that they only go to areas which DoDMA suggests for them.
But DoDMA spokesperson, Chimwemwe Njoloma told Maravi Express last week that the Department does not dictate where well-wishers can reach out to or whom to give but only offer information on where reports of needs are.
Njoloma had said DoDMA does not force any well-wisher to hand over the relief items to them in order for them to distribute on their behalf, saying “logistically, it’s better for us when well-wishers go to provide relief items themselves”.
This comes after some charitable organisations have preferred to distribute relief items themselves rather than using DoDMA, an indication that they are not comfortable to work with DoDMA for whatever reason for their loss confidence on the government department.
A few weeks ago, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) engaged Minister of Information Gospel Kazako to do the physical handover in Chikwawa while as soon as tragedy struck last month, Malawi Relief Fund UK swiftly reached out to affected people in Lower Shire — distributing on their own.
However, many families were left homeless in Balaka South and as focus of relief items distribution is only in one area of Phimbi, some stranded people in three relief camps of Nkaya, Nsamala and Mpilisi were forced to repatriate from relief camps and seek refuge in their relations’ homes.
As DoDMA or the District Council paid more attention on Phimbi, the flood victims in the other camps were encouraged to go back to their homes and when contacted, MP Mambala confirmed the development — saying she was forced to reach out to two camps with relief items from her own resources.
She also confirmed that the victims were being encouraged to repatriate back home if their relations can afford to host them, taking cognizance that the spaces they were being accommodated in were too small.
When asked if there were other wellwishers who came forward to assist, the MP said there haven’t been much but only acknowledged the presence of World Vision which reportedly distributed temporary sheets to Muluma evacuation center.