Floods in Malawi

Hushed by the sound of rain, they sleep.  Lying side by side – children, grandparents, mothers and fathers – breathe deeply and dreaming of tomorrow.

Not so far from the slumbering mud house, the banks of the Shire River quiver and crumble.  The raging torrent; bloated and full with mud and debris, slams its full weight into the curves of the river,  devouring it and dissolving all hope of a peaceful sunrise. A wall of water builds its strength; higher and higher, onward and outwards, closer and closer.

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Mwanza river in flood

Like a sponge, the family blanket soaks up the chocolate brown liquid, cooling the family beyond comfort and waking them with just a whisper of bad news.

The whisper soon becomes ‘shouts’…screams even, frantic activity. A single chicken bursts through the open door and clambers onto the rim of a plastic bucket. The tied up goat bleats helplessly, begging for freedom, its calls muffled by the wind and rain. Pots, cups and pans begin to float, hovering near a weak point in the wall. And the children wake; screaming, frightened and cold – ‘Mommy why is there a river in our house?’

It’s 2am and the rain keeps coming, belting down with relentless anger.  As lightning lights up the night sky, the panicked villagers are seen clambering for safety, up trees and towards higher ground, some kilometers from them.  The water is rising quickly and within one hour, the entire area – dotted with villages, schools and crops – is submerged.  Families must swim or find something to cling to and hope that help comes. But for many – too old, too young or too weak to fight the wall of water – are swept away into the darkness and swallowed whole, their screams of terror, muted.

In the early morning hours, the suns light fights through the thick cloud and continual rain, revealing the immense expanse of water and the ‘nothingness’ of a place that was once ‘everything.’  176 people died in these floods and up to 200 000 people are currently displaced.

Mwanza river in flood   Start of the floods

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A couple days ago, I took a drive down to Bangula in the very south of the country – an area that was hard hit. I noticed the devastation; of collapsed houses and drowned crops, eroded lands, bridges and railway lines swept away and roads reduced to footpaths. As with any disaster, surviving the rapid surge of water was one thing, but now comes the next deadly challenge – to survive the pools of water -festering with disease, the malaria that comes with ideal breeding grounds for the Anopheles mosquito, food shortages and lack of income with crops being washed away.  Sometimes it’s simply a case of not having access to a glass of clean water that can mean life or death.  And after surviving a night of hell, clinging to a branch while being battered by water and debris and watching friends and family being swept away – it seems insane that a shortage of ‘basics’ be the reason for a flood survivors death, just when the end was in sight.

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If anyone would like to help these people, please take a moment to contact one of the charities listed; it just might be the difference someone so desperately needs for their fate to be changed.

” There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

Malawi Red Cross – http://www.redcross.mw/ 

Concern Universal – https://www.concern.net/en/news-blog/responding-floods-malawi-and-mozambique

ADRA Malawi Adventist development and relief agency –  https://www.facebook.com/adramalawi

Asian Muslim Relief Aid – https://www.facebook.com/amramalawi

Note the water level on the buildings and the cracks appearing due to the floods.

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Rain man

Shire river

Unicef tents

Tents supplied by Unicef for displaced flood victims

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Donkey carts delivering food

Some photos of the flooding at ‘home,’ 100 km upstream from the hard hit Nsanje area.

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IMG_3869 Floods at home

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“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” – Helen Keller

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