Patuma Chikonje, 25, and her family have been living in a camp in Chikwawa, Malawi, since their house flooded with water in January 2022. Chikonje, her husband and their two children fled to higher ground and then made their way to a shelter.
“God willing, we will return to our homes, but the damage caused by the storm is severe. We lost everything,” she said.
In January 2022, two major storms devastated both Malawi and Mozambique. Hundreds of people died, more than 300 people were injured or remain missing, and more than 500,000 people were displaced from their homes, explained Elijah Adera, WaterAid’s regional program manager for South Africa.
Roads, bridges and water supplies were destroyed. There was a huge need for food, shelter, clean water, temporary sanitation facilities and hygiene kits.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided a $100,000 grant to WaterAid to help provide humanitarian relief to vulnerable families in both countries. Adera said WaterAid has been providing clean water and temporary sanitation, as well as educating displaced people about good hygiene practices in emergency shelters and camps.
Chikonje said the needs are great: “The toilets are not enough for the population we have at this camp, and this has made it challenging. We have fears that the toilets might also end up being hotspots for diseases,” she said.
Adera said the first priority has been to ensure that people living in the shelters have access to clean water, decent toilets and hygiene facilities to prevent disease outbreaks. “This includes water quality testing at the shelters, handwashing stations and hygiene supplies including soap, sanitizers, disinfectant, diapers and dignity/hygiene kits for women and girls,” he said.
Once people are able to return to their homes, Adera said the focus shifts to the rehabilitation of clean water infrastructure such as boreholes, damaged water supply networks, sanitation facilities and hygiene promotion in schools and healthcare facilities to build back what was lost.
Memory Raffick, age 50, from Zomba, Malawi, said: “The cyclones have had a devastating impact on our lives. I had to move to a nearby camp, and life at the camp has not been easy. We went there with nothing to rely on. With the storm as well, it has really been difficult for me to do farming.”
She, too, mentioned the problems with maintaining sanitation and hygiene when there are not enough toilets in households.
“People are tempted to just use the maize fields to relieve themselves,” she said. “This puts our lives in danger, because in the long run we may have this village turning into a hub for the spread of diarrheal diseases. The destruction of our bathrooms is also challenging us on the need to maintain our bodily hygiene. It is really challenging, but we are trying to do all we can.”
Adera said the damage caused by the tropical storms will be felt for years to come. But WaterAid and the Church are committed to providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene as communities recover and rebuild.
“WaterAid sincerely thanks Latter-day Saint Charities/The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their support,” he wrote.