On March 8, Malawi’s President, Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika, declared a State Of Disaster in districts affected by recent devastating floods caused by Cyclone Idai. According to Relief Web, 12% of Malawi’s population were affected by the floods, with 4,562 households were displaced. Major impact was on infrastructure and on household items and crops.
We had planned our annual Year 8 trip to Chikwawa, and when the cyclone and flooding happened, we knew we had to do something. Our Year 8 class consists of 15 students, aged between 12 and 14 years old and we decided to set up a crowdfunding page for friends and family overseas who wanted to support Malawians in this devastating time of need. We promised that every penny raised would go to children in Chikwawa to help rebuild their lives.
We made contact with Brenda Thomson-Surtee, and she helped us to make contact with Njereza School in Chikwawa. So, we went down to Chikwawa for our trip and to meet with the school leaders. The evidence of the flooding is still all around – debris is still hanging from trees, the main road has collapsed and is washed away, and there is so much river sand and instant beaches are everywhere.
We learnt that the water level rose about 2 metres in a matter of hours, and stayed at this level for about 17 hours. The flood waters were raging like the sea, not just a simple water rise like a calm lake. People were literally hanging in trees, waiting to be rescued. One man used his canoe to grab people, one by one, and take them to higher ground. In this photo, students are measuring themselves against the flood water level.
Njereza School has about 1100 students, and feeds each student daily. For a lot of students, it is their only meal that day. So going to school is about survival, not even education. The food storage room was under water during the floods, so the maize supplies was destroyed and the room itself is covered in mould and damp. Sadly, this photo shows what is left of the feeding centre at Njereza School.
Not having food results in absenteeism and those students who do attend might be too hungry to learn. We have decided to use our fundraiser money to rebuild the feeding centre, buy bags of food to replace those that were destroyed, and also help out with school supplies and resources since every family lost everything!
The village around the school was also obviously under all that water, so people are now living in a makeshift camp higher up the road. We visited the abandoned village.
In amongst the ruined houses of the village, we found someone’s science homework. This heart-breaking discovery further showed us how everything had to be abandoned and that children literally don’t even have a book or pen with which to do their work.
The UN and Red Cross have worked to create some temporary shelters in the new makeshift village on higher ground, but for the most part, the camp is made of plastic and straw. There are some tents donated by Japan, and three Red Cross plastic houses.
As a class, we have decided to rebuild the feeding shelter, restock the feeding supplies, and also help with resources with this school.
More information about the impact of the floods can be found on the ReliefWeb website, here:
- Malawi – Floods Situation Report No. 3 (as of 7th April 2019)
- Malawi Flood Response Plan March – May 2019
More photos of our visit are here: