Months after Cyclones, Storms in Malawi, “situation still dire”: Catholic Church Official

Mrs. Chimwemwe Sakunda, National Coordinator of the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM). Credit: Magdalene Kahiu/ACI Africa

The people of God in parts of Malawi are still living in distress months after Cyclone Ana and Tropical Cyclone Gombe as well as other storms hit the Southeastern African nation, the National Coordinator of the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the official of the development arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) said the tropical storms, which followed each other have made the recovery process difficult.

Two tropical storms, Ana and Gombe, hit the Central and Southern parts of Malawi in January and March respectively. 

Speaking to ACI Africa Tuesday, June 14 on the sidelines of the Advocacy Building Workshop on Integral Ecology and Climate Justice organized by the Jesuits Justice Ecology Network Africa (JENA), Chimwemwe Sakunda said that the situation in Malawi “is still dire. We still have not recovered.”

Participants at the JENA Workshop. Credit: Magdalene Kahiu/ACI Africa


The recovery process, Mrs. Sakunda said, has been affected by the close proximity in which the cyclones occurred. 

“After cyclone Ana, we had cyclone Gombe. They followed each other, and we also had storms in April. It has been like when we start the recovery process something comes up again,” said the official of the entity also known as Caritas Malawi.  

Mrs. Sakunda added that the cyclones, which led to the death of at least 39 people resulted in the displacement of many more people who have been living in camps since then. 

“According to the government, you don't have to keep people in camps for more than 90 days. Some of the camps have been decommissioned but we still have others. They have gone beyond the time that had been set. They are more than five months in camps,” she said.

The National Coordinator of CADECOM highlighted the challenges those in camps are experiencing. She said, “There is COVID-19 and though the numbers are going down, those who are living together in camps are put at a higher risk of contracting the disease.”

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People are also at risk of getting cholera, which was declared an outbreak in the country in March, Mrs. Sakunda further said, adding that due to financial constraints, efforts to move the people back to their homes has remained a challenge.

“This is also a problem because these people have to go back to their homes and recover but there is no adequate support,” she said, and continued, “The situation is still dire; and now with the donor shift to Ukraine, we are having problems in terms of getting enough funding to support the affected communities.”

In spite of the financial challenges, the national Coordinator of CADECOM told ACI Africa that the Church has been involved in several activities aimed at helping the affected persons. 

“As a Church, we are still doing a lot. Apart from relying on donors, we have also mobilized local support. We have had donations from the local Church and other people of goodwill. We have had people donating food, clothing, (and) seeds,” she said. 

CADECOM is also involved in sensitizing the people “on how they can build their own resilient houses using locally available materials so that in case another cyclone comes, they will be able to withstand the challenge,” Mrs. Sakunda told ACI Africa June 14.


The entity of the Catholic Bishops in Malawi is also involved in “mobilizing the Church to morally support those that have been affected,” she further said. 

Mrs. Sakunda said that the tropical storms are a sign that climate issues are worsening in the Southeastern African nation. 

She explained, “We have some places in Malawi, which are prone to disasters and those kind of experiences like floods, droughts. Climate issues are getting worse. These are places, which have never in their lifetime experienced such disasters but now they are facing it.”

“It is no longer a question of geographical position,” CADECOM National Coordinator said, and added, “Previously, there were some campaigns to relocate people from disaster prone areas to uplands but now these lands are having floods too. So, we may end up moving people to where we think it is okay, then come next year there is flooding and there is nowhere to move them.”  

She called for strategic action to address the challenges saying, “We really need to sit, digest and come up with sustainable and innovative ways of how we can address such kinds of challenges.” 

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One of the ways to address the climatic challenges is seeking “indigenous knowledge,” she said, and explained, “As Africans we need to go back to history and learn from what was happening then, because the people used to survive disasters in the past. We really need to make use of the indigenous knowledge. We need to learn how those who came before us used to do things.”

Mrs. Sakunda added that there is need to promote measures that reduce the vulnerability to the consequences of climate change. 

“We need to promote adaptive measures; how we adapt to these changes,” she said, and added that some of the practices would include applying smart agriculture, and reforestation. 

When planting trees, Mrs. Sakunda said, it is helpful to plant those that have economical value.

“Plant trees, which have economic value; for instance, fruit trees. It is easy for people to care for such trees as they know they will benefit from their fruits,” she said.

“In our case, we are also encouraging the regeneration of trees,” she told ACI Africa, and explained, “Regeneration is where you don't cut the tree as a whole, leave the stalk so it regrows. That is helpful because caring for trees is very challenging.” 

In the June 14 interview, the National Coordinator of CADECOM called on humanity to take urgent action against climate change, underscoring the need to everyone “to take responsibility”.

She emphasized the need for action saying, “Most of the time we talk but don’t act. Now is the time for us to act.”

Acting entails replanting trees and reducing consumerism, Mrs. Sakunda said, and referencing Pope Francis’ Encyclical letter on the care of the earth, Laudato Si’, added, “Let us have what we can use, and let's not have too many things and then you have so much waste at the end of the day.”

“Let us adhere to the 3Rs: Recycle, Reuse, Reduce,” the National Coordinator of CADECOM told ACI Africa June 14 on the sidelines of the Advocacy Building Workshop on Integral Ecology and Climate Justice organized by JENA.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.