The floods have destroyed the houses of thousands of families in the south of Malawi. Photo: humedica
A retrospective of humedica coordinator Tobias Dolpp
For more than three weeks, humedica field staff member, Tobias Dolpp has coordinated the distribution of aid supplies in Malawi, after heavy rains had flooded big parts of the country and brought serious distress to thousands of people. Tobias Dolpp’s personal retrospective shows us, how this support has reached the people in distress and what has impressed him most:
“The new year in Malawi started with rain, much rain. Within a few days there had been more than twice as much rain as there has usually been during the whole wet period in other years. In Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, this has had disastrous consequences. Referring to official estimation, 175 persons lost their lives in the floods and between 200,000 and 250,000 families have lost all their belongings. Alongside the rivers whole villages and areas have been downright washed away.
As 80 percent of the population lives of agriculture, the lost harvest will surely be followed by hunger. A circumstance which has induced the government to declare the state of emergency for one third of the country. In order to help the needy population, humedica immediately started a help project, with the support of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the local partner Emmanuel International.
Malawi, the warm heart of Africa, disposes of marvelous landscapes. The nature is mostly untouched and untroubled by mass tourism. All African wildlife live here, rivers and lakes seem like in a picture-book, from mellow hills to mountains everything can be found. And the crown of all that is the people’s impressing cordiality.
However, the floods have hit the south of the country with merciless cruelty. Within two days, small streams became torrents, which washed away everything that was in the way. And as is frequently happens, those who already lived under the poverty level have been hit most seriously.
The humedica help measures ought to support 6,000 families. During the first phase, this comprised the distribution of so-called non-food items. We distributed plates, cups, plastic buckets, mosquito nets, warm blankets and plastic foils to protect their houses. Our aim was the immediate support of the concerned families.
In the second phase, yams seedlings were distributed to families, the fields and seeds of which had been destroyed or washed away by the water. The chosen seedlings are very fruitful and suitable for the local soil conditions. The people were also explained how to plant them best and that they ought to put seeds for the following sowing aside at each harvest.
Together with the respective heads of the villages, we determined the families, which needed quick help and fixed the best possible distribution place, in order to reach as many needy persons as possible and to keep their walking distance as short as possible.
Due to the rain, the already bad streets were in a catastrophic state. A short and heavy rain shower was enough to get us into trouble with our truck. Again and again we remained stuck, but the local colleagues had some routine and also the local population helped much. One day, a countless number of people carried stones from the next village to us, in order to put them under the truck.
On another day, we reached the planned place of distribution indeed, but then our truck sank so deep there, that we were not able to pull it out of the mud on the same day. So part of our team stayed there overnight to protect the vehicle, together with inhabitants of the next village. As continuing rain nearly made it impossible to retrieve the truck, it lasted until in the afternoon of the following day to bring the truck back onto the street.
Looking back on the time in Malawi now, I am especially impressed by one thing: Despite their hunger, their incredible poverty and the loss of all their belongings the people still remained friendly and smiled. Even if someone had to leave us without anything to take away, because we couldn’t help everyone, they bore it with calm and dignity. There have been no riots at all, hardly any angry words. The behavior of these people in distress should be a message for the rest of the world. A behavior which is worth our attention!”
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