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Situation in Parts of Malawi “really dire” Following Tropical Storm Ana: Church Official

An elderly woman in front of her destroyed house in TA Mlumbe Zomba. Credit: CADECOM

The people of God in Malawi’s Southern and Central regions are living in distress at the camps where they are seeking refuge following Tropical Storm Ana, the National Coordinator of the development arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has said. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, the National Coordinator of the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) said that while the rains have stopped, it might take a while for the lives of Malawians dwelling in the affected regions to return to normal.

“The situation is really dire. We have households that have been displaced. In Chikwawa District (in Chikwawa Catholic Diocese), which is the most affected, we have over 10,000 households in camps,” Chimwemwe Sakunda said during the Wednesday, February 2 interview.

While the heavy rains have stopped, Mrs. Sakunda said most of the places are still water-logged and as a result, essential services have been disrupted.

“Some health centres are not working as they have been flooded; schools have been disrupted; some roads have been completely cut off, and this has disrupted humanitarian aid in the region,” she said.

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The CADECOM official further noted that those seeking shelter at various camps are at risk of contracting waterborne diseases. 

“The risk of contracting cholera is high. COVID-19 is making the situation worse for the people in the camps," Mrs. Sakunda said, adding that when people are gathered in camps there might be cases of violence among themselves. 

Tropical Ana reportedly formed over the Indian Ocean on January 22. It started moving westward, passing over the Northern region of Madagascar. The storm made landfall in the country and moved on to Mozambique and Malawi. 

Dozens of people in the affected countries have lost their lives, according to reports.

In Malawi, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs has reported that 158 people have been injured, 32 have died, and 20 have been reported missing. 

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In the February 2 interview with ACI Africa, the national Coordinator of CADECOM expressed concern that the statistics might get higher as search and rescue operations continue. 

Tropical Ana affected regions that were hit by cyclones Idai and Kenneth in 2019.

Mrs. Sakunda told ACI Africa that the Tropical Ana has destroyed some of the efforts that had been put in place to eliminate the effects of the 2019 cyclones. 

"We had not yet recovered from cyclone Idai. We had started some goat rearing projects but we are told that when the rains started the goats ran away," she said.

The CADECOM official said it might take a while "to resettle and rebuild" the people in areas that were affected by the Tropical Storm.

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She also expressed worry that Cyclone Batsirai, which is said to be already forming in the Indian Ocean might worsen the situation of the people in Malawi.

Mrs. Sakunda appealed for help to alleviate the people's suffering amid the Tropical Storm saying, “We are in need of almost everything: food, washing facilities, medical supplies, clothes, and PPEs because of COVID-19.”

Last week, Catholic Bishops in Malawi called on all people of goodwill to spare the little they have to support Malawians "who are trapped in this catastrophic condition."  

In their January 27 statement, ECM members also called on Catholic communities in the Southern African nation to mobilize any form of support to help those in the affected areas.

In the February 2 interview with ACI Africa, Mrs. Sakunda said Malawians need to embrace environmentally friendly practices that will help minimize the effects of climatic disasters. 

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"It is time for the people to walk the Laudato Si’,” she said, referencing Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter on the care for our common home.

"It is time to reflect on climate change (as) the magnitude of climate disasters is increasing yearly," Mrs. Sakunda further said, and appealed, “We need to plant trees (and) care for our mother earth to reduce the effects of disasters.”