Islamic Relief is on the ground in Malawi, responding to one of the worst weather disasters ever to hit southeast Africa.

Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique last Thursday, leaving devastated communities in its wake as the storm barrelled across the country and into Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Over 2.6 million people have been affected by what the United Nations says is among the worst weather-related disasters ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Hundreds have been confirmed dead, with the death toll expected to rise in the coming days and weeks. Catastrophic flooding has left thousands of people cut off, desperate for rescue and humanitarian aid.

Cyclone Idai struck families already on the edge

Islamic Relief is currently focusing our emergency response on Malawi, where we are already helping those affected by flooding and heavy rains which began earlier this month. Conditions in parts of the country already in the grip of an emergency were already dire, and deteriorating fast. The powerful cyclone has made it even worse.

350 homes have so far been reported damaged or destroyed in Chikwawa, Malawi.

Storm surge floods of up to six metres deep have devastated an enormous area in Malawi, say the World Food programme. Over a dozen districts have been hit by the disaster. Over 922,000 people have been affected, tens of thousands have been forced from their homes, and over 170 camps are occupied by displaced people.

Islamic Relief teams in Malawi

Our teams will initially concentrate on Blantyre and Chikwawa districts, where food, water, and sanitation facilities are the most pressing needs.

“We are in the middle of the affected area,” says Islamic Relief aid worker Sherifa Mia, speaking from our office in Blantyre. “Where we are, there are a lot of houses, informal constructions that are not built with concrete, so we’ve seen many thousands of houses falling apart.”

In the low-lying Chikwawa district, more than 48,000 people need help, and thousands have been uprooted, Sherifa explains.

“All the rivers in Chikwawa district, including the Shire, Malawi’s biggest river, burst their banks. I visited Chikwawa and I couldn’t believe my eyes; all the fields were under water, like a lake. Rice crops and maize crops that were just two weeks away from harvest were completely destroyed.

“A lot of livelihoods were lost. Eighty per cent of Malawians depend on farming for food and income – so it’s a huge disaster. You could see the despair on farmers’ faces.

“Many houses have fallen apart. People living close to the river had to move – a lot of people are now living in camps or schools, sleeping in classrooms which has disrupted education.”

Affected people are in dire need of water, and sanitation facilities.

The needs are huge

We are already working in Chikwawa, providing food and essential items to affected families, and will soon also be delivering camp management as well as water, health and sanitation support.

‘It is clear that the needs here are huge – and the most important thing is food. In every camp, there is not enough food. People don’t have adequate shelter. And the hygiene conditions are terrible. In one of the camps in which we’ll next week be delivering food assistance, there are just two toilets for over 1,000 people.”

We are already on the ground, providing food and essential items to affected families in Chikwawa, and will soon also be delivering camp management as well as water, health and sanitation support.

Uprooted families in Chikwawa, Malawi, are sheltering in camps and schools.

Islamic Relief is now responding to Cyclone Idai by scaling up our existing emergency activities in Malawi, and will distribute much needed food and other vital supplies. We are also planning early recovery projects to support affected communities.

“In total, we are aiming to reach 2,750 families with food and items such as kitchen utensils and hygiene kits. We will start distributing to 1,000 people on Monday and with more funds, we hope to significantly increase this number,” adds Sherifa.

In the UK, Islamic Relief is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which has launched a fundraising appeal to get help to those affected by Cyclone Idai. Islamic Relief partners around the world are also supporting our efforts in Malawi, but, as conditions continue to worsen, more funds are urgently needed.

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