By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi
Linley Manda, 30, remembers the night of March 9, 2019 like it was yesterday. She was woken up at 12am by heavy rains at her home in Nsanje district. She saw water entering her house and quickly rising. She started to scream and woke up her children with her husband. The children were crying and shouting for help. They fled to a nearby school for safety, away from the rising waters.
“I remember it was raining nonstop for two weeks. When the water started to rise the whole village was scared, and we helped each other to go to Mguda Community Based Childcare Centre (CCBC). We were afraid that these floods would be worse than the 2015 floods,” Linley recalls.
The floods that hit southern Malawi in March 2019 affected 15 districts, with Nsanje being the most heavily impacted. In total, more than 868,900 people were affected, with almost 86,980 people displaced across 173 camps. Linley and her family were based at Mguda Camp in TA Tengani for two weeks. Despite being safe from flooding, the experience was difficult.
“Sleeping in the tents was tough because there was little room. We weren’t comfortable at all. It was easy to catch a cold from other people living there and we were afraid we would contract diseases from each other because of how crowded the environment was. It wasn’t a good situation,” Linley discloses. “My middle child had diarrhea at some point, but luckily we were helped by a health worker at the camp. We had a clinic at the camp at that would check on children regularly.”
After a week the water levels in Linley’s village started decreasing, and she decided to return home with her family. However, when they got home they noticed some of their valuables were stolen and their maize fields were ruined. “When this happened, we were trying to figure out what’s next. My husband started looking for piece work to get us back on our feet so we could have food to feed the family,” she explains.
Linley has three children; the youngest is two years old and the oldest is 13 years old. Before the floods, her husband did piece work sporadically. The money was never enough to sustain them and they struggled to have enough food and clothes. Like many people in their village, they also struggled to access safe water. The borehole at the nearby school malfunctioned because of flood damage and they had to take a 400m walk to the Shire river to collect water for the family.
Safe water thanks to DFID
As part of recovery efforts following the catastrophic floods, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provided US $4.5 million (£3.4 million) to fund UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP) and Red Cross humanitarian response for people displaced by the disaster. These funds included support for food, health, shelter, logistics and water and sanitation. DFID support has enabled UNICEF to install installed 13 water systems in four flood affected districts. These water systems are comprised of 73 stand taps and 146 taps, giving communities access to safe water again.
“It is vital to ensure that people affected by the floods have access to clean water. This is key in preventing waterborne diseases such as cholera, and improving hygiene in the communities,” says Michele Paba, Chief of Wash Sanitation and Hygiene.
Utilizing the water
Linley is ecstatic with the new water tap in the village. Lucky for her, the tap is just a few steps outside of her house. “When we got the water tap we were so happy because we said goodbye to unsafe water. It makes so happy and we hope the same can be done in other villages. The cases of diarrhea have reduced as a result,” says Linley.
The Nsanje native has also made good use of the water by starting a vegetable garden in her backyard. She plants tomatoes, onions and various vegetables with the hope that it can provide more income to take care of their household and better their lives.
“I see a bright future head of me now. Every morning and evening I take care of my garden. I collect water to water my garden. People in our village have also been using the water to build houses following the destruction of the floods,” says Linely. “My children are also bathing almost three times a day, and they love it”
The health surveillance assistants in their village have taught the community good hygiene practices now that they have safe water. They were told to always wash their hands before and after meals, as well as after the bathroom.
In the meantime, Linely is thankful that her family is well on their way to recovery after the floods and she doesn’t have to walk long distances to collect water anymore. “Now I can make better use of my time that would previously go to the tiresome walks to the Shire river to collect water. I was also terrified of the crocodiles which would regularly attack people. I am so thankful for this water,” Linely describes with joy.