Shelter an urgent priority as Red Cross scales up response efforts for flood-affected in Malawi
LILONGWE, Malawi, March 4, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Following two months of constant rains, and with further rains forecast, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up its efforts to assist more than 46,000 people affected by the worst flooding Malawi has experienced in years.
“The situation is precarious,” said Michael Charles, IFRC's acting regional representative in southern Africa. “In some camps, family tents that were designed to accommodate six people have been housing 30 individuals. In the larger tents, designed to accommodate between 20 and 30 adults, up to 100 people have crammed inside. Everyone is desperate to find shelter, even if it means living virtually on top of their neighbours.”
From the onset of the flooding, the Malawi Red Cross Society has been assisting in response efforts, conducting search and rescue and distributing emergency supplies to thousands of people. With the scope of the disaster becoming more clear, IFRC has revised its emergency appeal upwards and is now requesting 4 million Swiss francs in emergency funding to support activities related to the provision of shelter, health care, access to clean water and proper sanitation, and reuniting families separated by the flooding.
“When the flooding began in January, the scale of the emergency was still unclear,” said Charles. “Together with the government and other partners, we conducted assessments and now know that at least 230,000 people have lost their homes and are struggling to survive. It is vital that we scale up our activities if we are to safeguard the lives of these vulnerable people and ensure that they survive this flood and future environmental extremes.”
With further heavy rains expected to fall in already saturated parts of Malawi over the coming week, the situation could become worse as more people seek shelter in the temporary camps that have been established along the periphery of the flood waters.
In addition to providing for the immediate needs of 46,712 people, the revised appeal seeks to address the resilience and longer-term development of affected communities. The appeal will be sufficient to help 100 families build more resilient permanent houses as a pilot project for further flood-resistant housing. To date, the appeal is 29 per cent funded.
“Building flood resistant shelter is a key component of the revised appeal,” said Naemi Heita, IFRC regional disaster risk management coordinator. “Malawi experiences flooding every year, and we want to ensure that people are better prepared for future flooding. We also want to minimize the impact the flooding has had on their livelihoods.”
Up to 638,000 people lost their crops during the floods, leaving them unable to feed themselves or their families. To help compensate for this loss, and improve food security and nutrition in affected areas, the Red Cross is distributing root cuttings and seeds of basic food crops, such as cassava and sweet potato, to all households with access to land.
The longer-term impact of the floods on families and communities is also being addressed through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links programme, implemented with support of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which traces missing people and helps reunite children with their parents.
Through the original emergency appeal launched in January, the Red Cross has been providing additional temporary housing to affected people. Volunteers with the Malawi Red Cross Society, many of whom had been left homeless themselves by the flooding, have also been distributing emergency supplies, reaching 15,000 people with life-saving items such as tarpaulins, shelter kits, blankets, jerry cans, safe water, and mosquito nets.