26 January 2015

MALAWI FLOODS - Families create makeshift homes for children using torn mosquito nets

Mercy, a widow and mother of three daughters,stands
outside of her house in Blantyre, Malawi.

January 26, 2015

The wellbeing of many Malawians, especially children, is at risk. With close to 200 dead and approximately 200,000 displaced, and with more rain to come, there is grave concern that these numbers will increase dramatically. Crops have been submerged, livestock swept away and houses destroyed, leaving families and their children homeless with nowhere to go – and without food or basic necessities. Children are no longer going to school because they have lost their clothing and school materials. Malawi's President Peter Mutharika has appealed for humanitarian assistance from the international donor community.

SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) is the world’s largest organization providing care for orphaned and abandoned children. Its three villages in Malawi - Chikhwawa, Nsanje, and Blantyre - have been adversely affected by the relentless rain and hailstorms that have hit the country since the end of December.

Mercy Masambuku, a beneficiary of an SOS Family Strengthening Program (FSP), lives in Chiwasa village in Machinjiri – outside Blantyre. She is the mother of three girls, and is desperate to keep them safe.

“My house did not withstand the strong rains and wind earlier this month. Since then, life is so tough for us. We have no food, and no warm or even dry clothes. We are living in a makeshift house. We are surrounded by danger,” she said.  

The family still sleeps in the same structure that used to be their house. Mercy has used mosquito netting to cover the gaping hole where the other half of the house used to be.

Phillip Tegha, SOS Malawi National FSP Coordinator, said, “The recent hailstorm in Blantyre and the floods in Ngabu have left families with no shelter. Families now resort to using torn mosquito nets as shelter, and have no blankets or warm clothes to cover them at night.”

In Chikwawa, 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) from Blantyre, traditional leaders sent dugout canoes to rescue stranded villagers, some of whom found shelter in trees.

“I am so afraid to leave my children even for a short period of time. What if something happens again while I am far away from home?” Mercy said. “I will do whatever it takes for us to be together and for them to be happy.”

Tegha explains that when the children are around, Mercy tries to smile and to appear happy and hopeful so that they don’t panic. But when alone with the SOS team, she admits that she has no hope when she considers the question of how she is going to feed them. The United Nations World Food Program said that it plans to airlift more than 100 metric tons of food to Malawi to feed at least 77,000, and added that accessing the southern districts has been "extremely difficult."

SOS is working to provide critical support services to children and families affected by the floods. Donations to support SOS Children’s Villages and its work can be made here.

Child sponsorships in Malawi are available. Sponsor a child in need today.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Rendon at srendon@sos-usa.org or 202.470-5182.