20 January 2015
Relief parcels have been distributed to flood-hit families in Malawi by the South African humanitarian group, Gift of the Givers.
The parcels – worth R500 each – contained staple food, blankets, eating utensils, water purification tablets and plastic sheets, the organisation’s founder, Imtiaz Sooliman, said on 17 January.
The eight-member Gift of the Givers team reached areas more than 100km away from Blantyre, he added. Distribution would also be carried out in Chikwana, Nsanje, Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka, Zomba, Phalombe and Mulanje regions.
Continuous rain and the “baby” Cyclone Bansi have resulted in Malawi declaring 15 of its 28 national districts disaster zones, and the country has called for international assistance. An estimated 100 000 people have been left homeless and 173 are confirmed dead.
The death toll is expected to rise as it is believed that 183 people have been swept away from one village alone. In addition, 11 000 homes have been damaged.
Sooliman said the southern African country was probably facing the “greatest flood disaster in the history of its existence”. “Massive destruction to agriculture, roads, bridges and general infrastructure, including power facilities, has complicated the situation due to prolonged power outages.
“The Malawi defence force has already rescued more than 4 000 people with the fear that many more are trapped in inaccessible areas,” said Sooliman.
There are also concerns of a cholera outbreak and other water-borne diseases as there is no clean drinking water and the sewerage system is contaminated. The humanitarian crisis is expected to worsen as tropical Cyclone Chedza hit Malawi on 18 January.
“It is expected to be far more destructive than Cyclone Bansi, bringing more heavy rains and greater flooding,” said Sooliman. Gift of the Givers has put water rescue teams from South Africa on standby for this eventuality, and medical teams are also ready if required.
Sooliman has urged South Africans to contribute to the relief efforts.
Meanwhile, its rescue mission in Mozambique is progressing well, according to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which was deployed to the flood- stricken country after its government approached its neighbour for help.
SANDF personnel left for Mozambique a week ago, and spokesman Lieutenant General Mabanga said the team was expected to spend seven to 14 days in that country. “Their stay will depend on the situation in that country.”
Senior SANDF members would go to Mozambique on 20 January to assess needs.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced following torrential rains in Mozambique. Four people have died in Mocuba, one of two districts badly affected by flooding, while an estimated 5 000 have sought refuge in government shelters. According to reports, the waters have risen to double the flooding threshold.
SANDF soldiers deployed in Mozambique include members of the South African Air Force, Navy divers and medical personnel. No SANDF members had been deployed in Malawi, Mabanga added.