Helping prevent disease in flood-stricken Malawi

In the past few weeks, torrential rains have brought massive floods to southern Malawi, killing 79 people, displacing over 170,000 and causing widespread destruction to homes, crops, livestock, infrastructure, and supplies of safe water.


30 Jan 2015

On 13 January, the President of Malawi declared a state of disaster in flood-affected regions across the country, and appealed for international aid. Relief efforts by the Malawi Government, UN agencies and NGOs are underway, but the disaster has received relatively little attention globally.

Communities need immediate aid in the form of shelter, food and safe water, but disease prevention is a growing concern; human waste and dead animals in the floodwaters are contaminating drinking water sources and making people sick. Even in the relocation sites, sanitation and drainage conditions are poor.

Boy walks through the floods in Malawi
Photo: World Vision

Stepping up assistance

WaterAid has been working in Malawi since 2000, helping to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. We have now pledged an initial £50,000 in support to minimise water-related illness and death among displaced people in 33 camps in Machinga district.

Some boreholes, shallow wells and taps have been flooded and contaminated, and in some districts most of the piped systems have been washed away. Sanitation facilities have been damaged, and hygiene has been severely compromised.

Concentrating on prevention and control of disease, we will provide safe drinking water and sterilising chlorine, support toilet construction, promote hygiene, build urinals, supply kitchen utensils and soap, and support coordination. In the long term, we plan to support restoration of community and school water infrastructure and school sanitation facilities.

Swift and sustainable relief

Further heavy rains and strong winds are expected in the affected regions, and the risk of flooding is still high. Agencies must move quickly to avoid the situation deteriorating and relief efforts being hampered by more floods.

We aim to assist communities’ long-term recovery by ensuring appropriate toilets are built, the needs of women and girls and people with disabilities are considered, and key hygiene messages are promoted at all times. WaterAid Malawi will continue to support the Government in ensuring its citizens’ rights to safe water and sanitation are realised.

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