Helping prevent disease in flood-stricken Malawi

Over the past several weeks, torrential rains have brought massive floods to southern Malawi, killing 104 people, displacing over 200,000 and causing widespread destruction to homes, crops, livestock, infrastructure, and supplies of safe water.


13 Feb 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. Our relief efforts to minimise water-related illness and death among displaced people in 33 camps in Machinga district are being funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have donated over £50,000 in support.

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 the prevention and control of disease, we're working with the local government to install drinking water and toilet facilities, and to distribute chlorine tablets to health centres.

"In the camps that have emerged, there is little to no access to safe drinking water and nowhere safe for people to go to the toilet. These dire conditions in such crowded areas can lead to the spread of fatal diseases such as cholera, dysentery and other diarrhoeal diseases," says Girish Menon, WaterAid's Director of International Programmes.

"We're addressing the immediate need for safe, clean drinking water and latrines as well as promoting good hygiene diseases to prevent the outbreak of disease."

In the long term, we plan to support the development of the communities by embedding the water, sanitation and hygiene improvements that have been made.

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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