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At least 600 die in Malawi after cyclone Freddy: “Pray for restoration”, say evangelicals

About 500 remain missing and over half a million are displaced. “Churches are providing shelter to those in need”, says the general secretary of the Malawi Assemblies of God.

FUENTES Protestante Digital, WFP AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano,5/Evangelical_Focus LILONGWE 31 DE MARZO DE 2023 17:32 h
Over half a million people have been displaced within the country after losing their homes / Screenshot [link]YouTube, BBC[/link]

Cyclone Freddy hit parts of Madagascar and the Mozambican coastline, but especially south-eastern Malawi, as happened in 2019 with cyclone Idai in Mozambique.



At least 600 people died in the country and another 500 are missing under the rubble.



Authorities also reported over half a million displaced people, for whom more than 500 shelter camps have been improvised. Efforts to recover the missing are going slowly because of a lack of excavation equipment.



“In some of the areas, we need actually an excavator so that we can actually sift through those rubble, maybe come up with anything that we can find”, said Casper Chalera, deputy inspector general of police responsible for rescue operations.



At the same time, in Malawi's northern region, in Karonga district, a long drought (over 25 days without rainfall) has affected about 8,700 hectares of corn and 10,200 hectares of rice.



Malawi is a country where over 3.8 million people (about 20 % of the population) are in need of food assistance between October 2022 and March 2023.



 



A food crisis



The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is requesting at least US$27 million to assist those displaced by cyclone Freddy.



“The country will need significant support. The level of devastation we are dealing with here is greater than the resources we have at our disposal”, pointed out Paul Turnbull, WFP country director and representative in Malawi.



In the regions affected by the cyclone, such as Nsanje, the price of corn has multiplied by up to 300%.





[photo_footer]  The disaster caused by 'Freddy' led to an increase in the price of corn in some areas. / Screenshot from YouTube, BBC. [/photo_footer] 


 



Material and non-material aid



“The rain started around midnight while we were sleeping. When we realized water was entering the house, we started taking our children out one-by-one. We did not manage to take any food or clothes. We just managed to save our lives. There is nothing we can go back to harvest”, explained farmer Mervis Soko, who lives in another cyclone-hit area, near Blantyre.



That is why the general secretary of the Assemblies of God in Malawi, Matilda Matabwa, told Spanish news website Protestante Digital in an interview that food is needed. But not only that.



“Displaced people need non-food items such as tents, sanitary hygiene kits, medicines, clothes, blankets, water dispensers, mosquito nets, water filters, tarps for shelter, antibacterial hand soap, lighting lamps, kitchen utensils, and sleeping mats”, she added.



There is also a need for “mental Health and psychosocial services in the camps and the affected districts; GBV referral services to link to the evacuation camps; safe spaces for children and adolescent girls; provision of separate tents for psychological first aid (PFA); and increased security services in all camps and host communities”.



According to Matabwa, “the overcrowding of displaced women, adolescent girls and children in shelters is a risk of sexual violence. The situation can worsen due to the separation and orphanhood of children in camps, and the disruption of children's safe spaces and protection services and structures by overwhelmed and overstretched service providers”.





[photo_footer] Cyclone Freddy has again sparked criticism of how the effects of the climate crisis are experienced, especially in the world's least polluting countries. / Screenshot from YouTube, BBC. [/photo_footer] 



 



The effect of the climate crisis



Malawi's president, pentecostal Lazarus Chakwera, said on twitter that “only climate-friendly ventures should inform most of our social and economic activities post cyclone Freddy”.



“Adherence to workable climate change management and adaptation strategies is key”, he added.






As with the effect of Idai in Mozambique, where reconstruction work was still underway a year after the cyclone, Freddy has led some voices to denounce the fact that the least polluting regions of the world are the ones most affected by the climate crisis.



“What has happened is a call to the world not to turn away from the climate crisis”, underlined Turnbull.



“The destruction and suffering I have witnessed in southern Malawi is the human face of the global climate crisis. The people I have met, many of whom have lost their homes and loved ones, have done nothing to cause this climate crisis”, said UN resident coordinator for Malawi Rebecca Adda-Dontoh.



One of them is Blantyre resident Alex Mattias, who works as a housekeeper.



“The first wave was water sweeping down the hill. But the second came with a mudslide which had rocks and trees”, he recalled of the flood that destroyed his home and livelihood. “We hope that more support will keep coming because the survivors are just too many. Life is hard, especially for young children”.



 



Pray for Malawi



Evangelical churches in the country have been involved in the rebuilding as best they can “providing shelter for displaced people in the affected areas, although of course, some churches' premises have been destroyed”, explains Matabwa.



The general secretary of the Assemblies of God in Malawi calls on people to pray for the restoration of the country and its economic stability; for the president of the nation who is also a pastor, to keep the faith and stand strong; and for more helping hands to restore damaged properties and infrastructure”.



She also asked to pray “for peace and resources to rebuild the nation; for the physical and spiritual healing of those affected and divine comfort for those who have lost loved ones. Pray that the church will rise up and provide hope”.



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