The area of Havala at Chisi in Zomba district suffered flood disaster that did not only wash away homes of residents, it also washed away dreams, hopes and aspirations of children of the area most of whom go to Havala Primary School.
For a country that is chronically hit by dry spells and food scarcity, the sight of rainfall brings immense joy. Rain is a sign of abundance and food security. Too much rainfall, on the other hand, is a recipe for concern. Flooding can wash away crops, destroy houses and property and be a threat to humans and livestock.
I started working as a child protection officer at UNICEF Malawi in February 2019. A massive flood that displaced 87,000 people occurred just after 3 weeks of my arrival. I was deployed to the affected areas in the southern part of Malawi twice after the floods. The first time was immediately after the flood for assessment, and the other for the response from 25th April to 9th May.
Christina Stafford, 17, stands with a group of friends outside a warehouse at Bangula camp in Nsanje. She holds a netball ball in one hand and picks out who will go in which team. She is one of the best netball players in the camp and everyone wants to be in her team.
It had been raining nonstop for three days and water was rising slowly. First it filled out the yard, then covered the verandah area before seeping into the mud and stick house belonging to Ethel Mwaonga. “I woke up to the sound of people screaming and scrambling to get into boats,” Ethel recalls. “I took my baby and a few clothes and ran into a boat.”
The sound of a bell rings out to announce that the school day has just finished at Kathebwe Primary School. It’s a hot, sunny day. Children run outside and start to disperse. Some go home to nearby villages, while others start kicking a ball around on the school field. A third group joins their mothers and younger siblings, who are sitting with a hundred or more flood victims in the shade of a large tree. Since the heavy rains and floods of early March, this school has doubled as an evacuation centre.
Beatrice Harold and her newborn daughter have been living in a classroom at their local primary school ever since flood waters swept through southern Malawi three weeks ago
Malawi’s border with neighbouring Mozambique has always been fluid. People move freely across the vast land border for trade and marriage. The language spoken in the southern border villages is often a fusion of Sena (spoken by the Sena tribe of southern Malawi) and Portuguese from Mozambique. It is not uncommon to find Malawians in these areas speaking fluent Portuguese and using a Mozambique network on their mobile phones.
The timing could hardly have been worse. Just a few weeks before Malawi’s staple maize crop was due to be harvested, heavy rains swept through the southern part of the country, taking with them the yet-to-be-collected grain, thousands of houses and cutting off access to some areas; dozens were killed.
The day began as usual. I woke up at 6:30 am to get ready for work. An hour or so later, I arrived in Area 24 to join my colleagues, and try to stop the spread of cholera in the area.
Area 24 is a crowded township located on the boundary between Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, and the surrounding rural district.
Our task for the day was simple: to locate, photograph and mark on a Google map all the nearby sanitation and hygiene facilities including toilets, water points and dumpsites.