More than 100,000 displaced in Malawi floods


Some 106,000 people in Malawi and a further 20,000 people in neighbouring Mozambique have been displaced following weeks of heavy rains.

As much as one month’s worth of rain fell in one day in some parts Malawi’s southern region, severely flooding towns and villages, as well as parts of the country’s commercial capital, Blantyre.

The death toll currently stands at 176 people, according to the humanitarian charity World Vision, although that number is expected to rise.

Malawian president Peter Mutharika declared more than half of the country a disaster zone and has called for “urgent assistance” with the relief efforts.

“The floods have also damaged hectares of crops, washed away livestock and damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges,” said President Mutharika.

He warned that many people remained stranded in low-lying, flood-prone areas and need to be rescued.

“Government alone cannot afford to help so I appeal to the international community for urgent assistance,” said Mutharika.

The Malawi Defence Force has deployed helicopters and boats to help with the rescue efforts, saving some 1000 lives according to Bloomberg News, but poor weather conditions have prevented more lives from being saved.



The impact of the heavy rains on Malawi’s crop yields is a major concern.
Some 84 per cent of Malawians live in rural areas where they are dependent on subsistence farming.

Last year, Malawi harvested a bumper 3.9 million tonnes of the staple maize crop, a surplus of almost a million tonnes, but a combination of poor rains at the start of the rainy season followed by the recent heavy floods will have a devastating impact on this year’s harvest, according to Jeffrey Luhanga, principal secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Delayed and overall below-average cumulative rains since the start of the rainy season in October last year have adversely affected the 2015 cereal crops, but prolonged heavy rains may worsen the situation.”

For workers, too, the floods are a serious calamity.

Pontius Elijah Kalichero, Secretary General of the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), told Equal Times that they were “saddened” by the devastation inflicted on “low wage earners that have been worst affected by the floods.”

Former president of the Malawi Civil Servants Trade Union (MCSTU), Elia Kamphinda Banda, said that as well as affecting workplaces and the ability to get to work, in a country with high levels of unemployment, workers – especially those in the formal sector – will bear the brunt of the disaster.

“Many Malawian workers support extended family members and the floods will have an impact both on those workers from the flood-affected areas and those outside it,” he told Equal Times.

Meanwhile, health authorities say the heavy rains have had a negative impact on the delivery of health services.

Samson Njolomole, a communications officer at the US-based NGO Partners in Health, told Equal Times:

“Rivers have swollen to such a point that we cannot reach clinics in many areas.”
The floods have also caused havoc in neighbouring Mozambique, where reports indicate that 25 school children were swept away by torrents last Monday.
Parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe have also been affected.