Malawi’s slow motion tsunami

Malawi flooding...epa04572326 A picture made available on 21 JanFriends, this will probably be our last post for some time concerning the Malawi floods as we don’t want to bore our friends and supporters. But if you are interested in regular updates yo can contact zm through our website and ask to be put on the mailing list for the “Zambesi Mission – Flood Relief Bulletin”.

Since our previous post on the impact of the flood in Mulanje District, we have been hearing stories of areas much worse hit. Many areas are still cut off from any help a week after the disaster, and in some areas ZEC pastors have not been contactable because phones are drained so the extent of the impact is unknown.

For example Pastor Simon Chikwana – the zm Field Director in Malawi – still hasn’t managed to get information from Chirombo ZEC, a church which is at the edge of Lake Chirwa where the Phalombe river flooded. This has been one of the worst affected areas. From many years in industry and his Field Director role, Simon knows Malawi like the back of his hand. His perspective is that “the area is at the moment impassable and communication is limited. The little information that has come through indicates that our brothers and sisters are desperate for food, clean water and shelter”.

Also badly hit is the east side of the Lower Shire valley in Nsanje District . There the authorities say the vast plain has been turned into a vast lake engulfing houses and bridges. It is reported that the only way in is via helicopter – and those are not plentiful in Malawi – or via an arduous and circuitous 5 hour 4×4 journey which makes humanitarian intervention very difficult.

Simon told us of another route through which a trickle of grass-roots aid is getting to the needy: a gruelling canoe ride of many hours across the swollen Shire River and into the newly created swamps. The endurance and ingenuity of our host nation sometimes seems unlimited!

Despite this ingenuity, and despite the relatively localised (if extensive) damage from the floods, nevertheless the impact of what Amaury Gregoire (MSF’s Head of Mission to Malawi) this week called Malawi’s ‘slow motion tsunami’ should not be underestimated. Remember, a massive 85% of Malawians depend on subsistence farming in their “gardens” for their livelihood. Survivors have lost the crop that they depend on for life and will go hungry until the next harvest in March/April 2016.

Sure, in a hospitable culture like Malawi, the displaced people will be living with friends and neighours, but those houses are now crowded, remaining food stretched, and with ground water contaminated by floods the likelihood of major disease outbreaks is high.

Friends, the photographs may not be as spectacular as a ‘real time’ tsunami but Malawi’s ‘slow motion tsunami’ has been no less destructive. The close ties between the UK and Malawi – and in particular between Scotland and Malawi – means this situation really does warrant the attention of Christ’s disciples in the UK.

  • Please pray for the people and leaders of Malawi. And for the churches, NGOs (large and small) and other organisations now striving to bring relief in this difficult situation.
  • Please pray for faith and wisdom for zm as we work out how best to work with and through our Malawian church partners to help with the medium-term needs of each affected family.
  • Give thanks for the gifts that zm is receiving to help those who are left homeless and without any food or belongings at this time.
  • Continue to pray that our partner churches would know exactly how best to show the love of Jesus at this time – that they would be salt and light to those in need in their communities – that they would be known as disciples showing God’s love in Word and in deed.

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