The communities of Blantyre and Ngabu, both home to SOS-supported families, have been badly affected by the floods. Among the numerous children separated from their parents are 1,700 supported by SOS Children. No SOS families in Malawi have been directly affected so far, although Pemba Village in neighbouring Mozambique has been evacuated as a result of the floods.
“What this means... is that boys and girls are not currently living under the same roof as their parents,” says Phillip Tegha, who coordinates our community work in Malawi. “After their own houses collapsed in the floods, they were placed with neighbours... Even husbands and wives have been separated in this way, finding shelter wherever there is still a space available.”
President calls for international support as relief efforts stall
Relief agencies are providing food and medical support across affected regions. However, challenges remain as work continues to assess the level of need, and many families remain without adequare shelter. Estimates suggest that over 200,000 people have been displaced in southern Malawi, with the government declaring a state of emergency in more than half of the country's 28 districts.
In late January, President Mutharika called for support from countries and organisations around the world, as well those in a position to help from within Malawi: “I appeal for humanitarian assistance from the international donor community, the relevant United NAtions agencies, the non-governmental organisations, the local private sector as well as all fellow citizens of goodwill, so that, together, we can contribute in alleviating suffering on the part of the people affected by the floods.”
Since early on in the crisis, we have been working to return children to their families. According to Phillip, this means “proper shelter, food and access to medical care”. We are currently focusing on the many SOS-supported families who have been broken up amid the disaster.
Unaccompanied children face many risks, from physical and sexual abuse to trauma and injury. Many communities in the region are underwater, leaving families at risk from waterborne infection. Malaria poses yet another threat as stagnant water attracts mosquitoes in a region where most lack adequate housing and mosquito nets. Weather reports suggest that rainfall could continue during the weeks ahead, worsening the humanitarian crisis even further.
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