Saturday, October 13, 2012

Malawi’s heroines of the floods

Mabvuto Banda in IPS: For many women in Malawi’s disaster-prone southern district of Nsanje, resilience is essential to survive the cyclical flooding. Twenty-four-year-old Chrissie Davie, a mother of four, saved two of her three children from drowning when water filled her house as she slept early this year.

About 6,157 families lost their property, over a thousand hectares of crop fields were ruined and 343 houses were destroyed in a matter of minutes when tropical cyclone Funso from the Mozambican channel landed on southern Malawi in January. The region is hit annually by high rainfall around this time of year.

“Water came so quickly that by the time I woke up, it was too late for Chimwemwe, my youngest son,” she told IPS. Chimwemwe was already dead when she reached to pull him out of the floodwaters. He was only 18 months old. Davie used an empty drum to float her two remaining children, four-year-old Saulos and two-year-old Moses, to safety.

Chrissie Davie now lives in a makeshift shelter with her children after floods destroyed her house in January. She reached Chikoje, one of the schools in Traditional Authority Mbenje, southern Malawi. But within hours, she, together with the others who sought safety there, abandoned the school when the floodwaters rose. They walked for hours to reach a Malawi Defence Forces emergency camp called Nyatwa.

...According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this landlocked, resource-poor southern African nation is vulnerable to a wide range of shocks and disasters, including yearly flooding and drought once every three to five years...

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