Evacuation: floods devastate Malawi

By many accounts, the late summer torrential rains that have flooded many parts of Malawi leaving thousands displaced without shelter, food and loved ones have been unprecedented in terms of immediate and long-term impact.

Whole trading centers were flooded, stalling the local economies and destroying capital. Houses and villages were leveled, forcing folks to pick up the pieces and saunter on downhearted. Many folks were stranded on islands of highland, waiting for rescue that did not come – while others were not as lucky as they went missing or were killed. Kids are still not going to school. Crops that were recently planted are devastated, effecting future yields and irrefutably putting pressure on food security. Public health concerns have been raised vis-à-vis cholera and basic hygiene from pit latrines being flooded and human waste being carried by the flowing flood waters. An earnest but lackluster response from a low-resourced government has exacerbated ongoing antipathy from the people. These have all been issues indicative from the onset of the flooding.

On the Peace Corps front, many Volunteers have experienced problems with their houses. Some have had leaky ceilings, minor flooding and collapsing of house walls while they sleep. I have been lucky. Other than patches of walls becoming saturated with water (which isn’t good but not terribly dangerous), my immediate situation was (and has been) fine. The rest of Nsanje (as well as many other parts of Malawi) were not as lucky.

Here are some of the headlines coming out of Malawi:

In light of these events, fourteen Volunteers including myself got evacuated from our home districts on January 14, 2015. These districts had been declared disaster zones by Malawian President Peter Mutharika. I got cleared to go back home January 22 and journeyed back home the following day to see how things panned out. Thankfully, everything was good.

Here are some pictures snapped before I left Nsanje (credit to my friend Nedson):

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We stayed at a guesthouse on the outskirts of Blantyre. The house is owned by the former Malawian Ambassador to Egypt. I got to speak to him on few occasions. The food was nice and the sleeping accommodations appropriately adequate but we were without power for most of the day and bathing was done out of a bucket. Blantyre – even though it is the commercial center of Malawi – has and continues to be affected by the rains (as is the capital Lilongwe). Many parts of Blantyre and Lilongwe are without running water and consistent electricity.

It was hard going back home to Nsanje to only turn around and leave again after a couple days. In the last two months I’ve been gone a lot for one reason or another. I’m currently in Lilongwe to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, attend a two-week Trainer of Trainer conference and finally, a Communications Committee meeting. In a short time I have Mid-Service Training (wow?!) and sessions to teach for the incoming group of Volunteers.

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Thanks for reading and thanks for all the fish!

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