Malawi: Assistance for Flood Victims Through humedica and the German Foreign Office

by Susanne Merkel/SRI,  2008/06/24

It may sound like a bad joke when someone is overheard talking about flooding in Africa. But unfortunately, this is no laughing matter, rather the bitter truth. In Malawi in 2007, thousands of people were affected by flooding. But, because of the support from the German Foreign Office, humedica was able to help.

The Background

During the December 2007 - February 2008 rainy season, flooding caused a lot of damage in the districts of Zomba, Machinga and Balaka. Families lost their crops; corn, beans, peas, squash, peanuts and rice fields were flooded, and the fertile ground was washed away. Many of the clay houses fell in because the foundations had been waterlogged by the floodwaters. In certain cases, flash floods occurred during the night, and families lost not only their house but everything in and around it as well – clothes, dishes and livestock. Even the food supplies, which were supposed to last until the next harvest, were ruined.

Elke Konrad (German Embassy) and Annett Michael from humedica were at the last distribution day. Photo: humedica

The flooding was triggered by heavy rainfall which caused the rivers and lakes in the area to flow over their banks. The geography in this region is very mountainous, with deep valleys and high plateaus. Deforestation, especially in the mountains, is another factor in the heavy flooding. Because the trees aren’t there anymore to hold everything together, the fertile soil on top washes away. This not only severely limits the ground’s ability to absorb water, but also causes the depth of the rivers to sink. When heavy rains come, the rivers crest sooner. Since the additional water isn’t absorbed as quickly into the ground - but rather sits on top - the area floods. In total around 12,000 families in this region (three districts) were affected by the flooding - they lost their crops, houses, or both.

Preparation and Implementation of the Relief Assistance

Directly following the flood, members from the village committees were instructed as to how they could better assess the damages. Together with the head of the village, they then went around and made a list of those affected, noting the immediate and long-term needs of each. These lists were then forwarded on to the district chairman; our partner Emmanuel International worked with the lists as well. In cooperation with the district chairman, the target groups were selected. In the end, it was decided that support would be given to the villages which needed the most assistance.

3,246 families could be helped. Photo: humedica

Every selected family received 50 kg corn, 25 kg beans, one liter of oil and five plastic cups and plates. By the distribution, the head of the village was there to make sure that those receiving the relief supplies were those who were supposed to receive them. On the last distribution day, a member of the German Embassy, as well as an employee from humedica were present.

Also in attendance was a Member of Parliament, who is also the Minister for Economic Planning for Malawi. The district chairman and other public figures were present as well. This led to a positive response in the local press and especially in the people, who with deep thanks had received the assistance.

Emmanuel International and humedica would like to deeply thank the German Foreign Office for their support in Malawi. 3,246 families received over a month’s supply of food and a few household goods to help replace what was lost in the flood. Working together with the district government, Emmanuel International will continue the help in this region.

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