Belfast Telegraph

Aid worker describes ‘complete desolation’ in flood-hit southern Africa

Communities are trying to piece their lives back together following the disaster triggered by Cyclone Idai.

A submerged church (Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide)
A submerged church (Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide)

A worker with an Irish aid charity has described scenes of desolation in southern Africa in the wake of recent floods.

Gavin Douglas, from Concern Worldwide, has visited towns and villages cut off by high waters along the Malawi/Mozambique border.

Communities are trying to piece their lives back together following the disaster triggered by Cyclone Idai.

“We passed endless abandoned villages,” said Mr Douglas.

“Only the skeletal remains of wood houses remained, some still sitting in four or five feet of water.

“It was complete desolation. Whole villages have just been swept away.”

During his trip to an area south of Nsanje on the southern tip of Malawi, Mr Douglas said he met local people who had returned to fish for food and to start repairing their homes.

“They were too frightened to bring their families back with them in case the floods would return,” he said.

“The floods came so fast, they left with only the clothes on their backs and a few bits and pieces. They have lost everything. The strength of the floods took everything with it. There is nothing left on the ground, only soaked earth. They have lost vast amounts of crops they were relying on.

“It was very hard to process the sheer scale of the destruction.”

Concern said more than 800,000 people have been affected by the flooding in Malawi, with 87,000 displaced, 59 dead and 672 injured.

The charity is working in displacement camps to construct latrines and bathrooms and to provide safe water supplies.

Mr Douglas described the dire situation in one of the camps.

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Patrick Ghembo, of Monyo village, Malawi, standing in his field, destroyed by the floods (Gavin Douglas/Concern Worldwide)

“Aid is slow in coming to the camp,” he said.

“The people have not received a food delivery in six days.

“There are more than 11,000 people staying there – mainly women and children. The camp, in the grounds of a school, has less than 20 toilets for the entire camp population.

“There is a real threat of cholera and other water-borne diseases. It is very apparent a bigger crisis is looming.”

This week, Concern plans to distribute emergency kits containing essential items such as plastic sheeting, cooking utensils, mosquito nets and soap to those who are displaced.

Concern is aiming to provide relief support to tens of thousands of people in the coming days and weeks.

Concern Worldwide chief executive Dominic MacSorley said: “Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with very little capacity to respond to a natural disaster of this scale.

“Concern’s team on the ground in Malawi are responding but support from the public and the international community is desperately needed to raise five million euros to fund this work.”

For more information about Concern’s Malawi flood appeal visit www.concern.net

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