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.


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 – 

Concern Universal –

ADRA Malawi Adventist development and relief agency –

Asian Muslim Relief Aid –

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


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


“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


28 replies »

  1. These are amazing pictures. Thank you for traveling down there and capturing the devastation and beauty. It is crazy the devastation down there and up in Lilongwe we’re stressed over power cuts.

    • Thank you 🙂 I do hope the power cuts improve. I know in Blantyre there have been weeks of water cuts and never ending power cuts. While there is a lot of devastation in this area, having no power and water is still pretty tough! Thank you for reading.

  2. Reblogged this on tommarter and commented:
    Thank God for blogs – if we relied on the world’s press alone to dictate the headlines to us, then this tragedy in Malawi would have just passed the West by. Good to see Unicef ‘s work on the ground providing tents for those displaced – a charity my blog supports also.

  3. Reblogged this on Malawi Moments and commented:
    Lianne who is a blogger and photographer based in the south of Malawi has given this heart felt account with photos of what she’s seen of the flooding. Here in Lilongwe we have had electrical storms and power cuts but much of the south of Malawi (and into neighbouring countries) have had serious flooding with 121,000 people displaced from their homes and over 600,000 affected.

  4. Thanks Lianne for sharing your photos and words. Here in Lilongwe we’ve had storm damage with trees and houses collapsing, but not the flooding and suffering that you’ve witnessed in the south. I will also reblog your post.

  5. Wow, Lianne. That is terrible. Here in California, I would be for you to send that rain our way. We need it so badly. But there? I am so sorry and hope things clear up soon. Your writing was beautiful. Thank you.

    • Thanks Jessica, it was quite something to experience. I never knew rain could come down so hard. Thankfully it has subsided now and we’re all hoping the worst of the rains are over. By all means, take some of our rain – the countryside is like a soggy sponge right now 😉

    • It’s a pity it didn’t get more coverage but I can believe it! It seems we live in a world of tragedy these days where there just isn’t enough airtime for anything! I think with this type of natural disaster, the attention is solely focused on surviving the actual event – anything after it is old news. And unfortunately with an event like this, it’s the ‘after’ that brings the most despair.

  6. Thank you for sharing and posting about the floods! I was hoping you would. When it happened it got a brief mention in world news and the world has moved on from this event, though its effects for the people in Malawi will be felt for YEARS to come (takes awhile to repair infrastructure).

    • Absolutely. It took me a while to gather all the images as we were stranded on our company’s estate, unable to move around for a few days due to all the water and mud. And we were 100km’s up from the worst flooding. What those people have experienced is truly devastating.
      For many they have lost everything that they have built up and acquired over a life time and must start all over again. Unfortunately, with most tragedies, they are only in the lime light until the next one takes its place. Thank you for reading and best wishes to you for 2015.

  7. Thank you for raising awareness about this tragedy. Your photographs do a terrific job in showing us the havoc nature is capable of creating. My thoughts are with those Malawians who’ve been affected. Annabel

    • Thank you. The devastation in this area is huge. Entire villages were wiped out and they must start from scratch all over again. Thank you for reading 🙂