Malawi time bomb ticks, hundreds dead


Tropical Cyclone Freddy wreaks havoc in Malawi and Mozambique, and there are fears the tropical must ravage the entire southern African region

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
Malawi Bureau
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – MALAWI is reeling from the death toll from Tropical Cyclone Freddy escalating to 447.

Indications are that fatalities could be higher and the country is sitting on a mental health time bomb.

Local authorities have confirmed that at latest count, 282 other people are still missing after Freddy made landfall last week.

“These figures are expected to rise in the days ahead as further information becomes available, especially in areas that remain cut off by flood waters,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated.

Some 75 000 hectares of cropland has been flooded in the drought-prone country.

Cyclone Freddy struck just as farmers were about to harvest the only crop of the year.

Around 363 000 people have been displaced and are sheltering in more than 500 camps across flood-affected areas of the Southern African country, according to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA).

Mulanje (94), Blantyre (86), Phalombe (63) and Nsanje (57) districts have the most shelters.

This comes as distraught communities in the impoverished country of 20 million people begin to come to terms with the damage culminating from the long-lived, powerful and deadly weather system.

As efforts are underway to reach locations that have been cut-off by road since March 12, OCHA has made protection a top response priority. The most critical needs are search and rescue for those trapped by flood waters and killed by the mudslide.

OCHA is wary of heightened risks—including trauma, gender-based violence, child separation and trafficking—caused by the storm and associated displacement.

The UN agency lamented that the crisis has had mental health consequences for communities, families and children, including frontline workers in the affected districts.

It has also disrupted protection services and structures, including community-based childcare centres.

Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, has released US$5,5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to assist people affected by floods and mudslides occasioned by Freddy.

Rebecca Adda-Dontoh, the UN Resident Coordinator for Malawi, visited flood-affected areas in recent days.

“The destruction and suffering that I witnessed in southern Malawi is the human face of the global climate crisis,” she lamented.

“The people I met with—many of whom have lost their homes and loved ones—have done nothing to cause this crisis,” Adda-Dontoh added.

“We, as the UN, stand in full solidarity with the people of Malawi at this tragic time and we call on the international community to do the same,” Adda-Dontoh said.

The United Kingdom has sent a search and rescue team of 27, which includes a medical team of six to help the government of President Lazarus Chakwera.

“We have been working since this horrendous cyclone hit to support the emergency response in Malawi and provide life-saving assistance to those who need it most,” Andrew Mitchell, UK Minister for Development and Africa, said.

Malawi is meanwhile suffering its worst cholera crisis, with 1 612 deaths documented from over 51 500 cases since late 2022. It is the most severe ongoing outbreak in Africa.

Chakwera assured Malawians his government will rehabilitate all damaged infrastructure.

“All affected communities will also be cared for,” he pledged.

Madagascar and Mozambique have suffered less severe damage than Malawi as a result of Freddy.

– CAJ News






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