Malawi’s local heroes: Doctors give their own blood to support flood victims as local schoolchildren, journalists rally

Many two-roomed houses now have over 20 inhabitants.

MALAWI is currently experiencing the worst flooding the country has ever seen. Roads, houses and crops have been washed away and according to a contact working in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Blantyre there are children “weak from a crushed limb or advanced malaria, [who] are reliant on blood donations from their doctors to survive, since there is simply not enough available blood to support the number of casualties. They are the lucky ones: those living in remote rural areas, who cannot even afford transport to hospital, have seen many unrecorded deaths and untreated injuries.”

Whilst humanitarian groups flock to support the government and flood victims with critical emergency aid, there are a few local groups who are doing their part and deserve to be mentioned.

In Chigamula village, just outside Blantyre, one of the worst hit areas in the country, a small school called Jacaranda School for Orphans is using it’s own misfortune to help others.

Daisy Belfield who teaches at the school describes how “two-thirds of the students’ houses [had] collapsed in the rains.” Housing in the area is vulnerable to floods since it is constructed using the cheapest building materials, typically sunbaked mud bricks and straw for the roof.

When she was faced with the task of asking each one of the children in what condition their houses were and when they had last eaten, since the storms hit, it turned out that most had to pile into a relative’s or neighbours house, meaning that many two-roomed houses have over 20 inhabitants.

Daisy explains that most devastatingly of all, “almost all the students’ bags of maize-flour had become sodden by the rains. Considering maize is the food of basic subsistence in Malawi, without it …the children literally starve.” She recalls that one of her students, Tawina, and had not eaten for over 36 hours when she spoke to him last. His house was on an exposed hillside, so it disintegrated quickly.

“Team Jacaranda Relief”

Fortunately, Jacaranda benefitted enormously from donations in response to the disaster. As a result the students organised themselves and formed “Team Jacaranda Relief” to provide blankets, maize and soap to the worst hit individuals. Having faced this adversity themselves and knowing whom might need what the most, they’ve proved to highly effective.

In Chirimba meanwhile, a group of journalists, under the banner of “Media Action for Society” organised a huge braii whose proceeds were to go towards those affected by the natural disaster around Blantyre.

Private businesses also sought to play their part. Mobile telecommunications operator Airtel Malawi launched an SMS code (140) that will enable all well-wishers to contribute in supporting the country’s flood victims. Each SMS costs MK100 (20 US cents) and all proceeds are donated to the Department of Disaster Management and the Red Cross. 

In Chikwawa the company “Mary’s Meals” made an assortment of food donations to 519 households affected by the floods. Toyota Malawi also partnered with aid agencies providing relief items, including blankets, water buckets, salt, sugar and maize flour worth K5 million ($10,600).

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