Five months later, 74-year-old Innocent Kaitoni still cannot help it but watch helplessly as a fountain of tears washes his sun-beaten face.
“I have lost so much to things I could not control. I am talking of floods and the like,” says Kaitoni at his base, Mwanawanjobvu Village in Chikwawa District.
He is one of the people that are still collecting the broken pieces of their lives after losing livestock, household items such as clothes, blankets, kitchen utensils and bags of maize to Tropical Storm Ana.
Kaitoni, who stays with five grandchildren and his last born daughter, said while sitting inside his house, he realised that water was getting into the house.
According to the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, Tropical Storm Ana formed in the Indian Ocean on January 21 and made landfall in Malawi on January 24, bringing heavy rain and causing floods.
“Within seconds, everyone in the house, including the house itself and everything was immersed in water.
“We had no choice but to evacuate the house. I moved out along with my grandchildren, leaving everything I owned behind,” he says of the events of January 25.
Kaitoni says everything happened so fast.
“If I remember well, this was happening shortly after 8pm, some minutes after I had gone to sleep,” he says.
He says the whole area was flooded, such that dry ground was fast becoming a rare commodity.
They sought refuge at Mwanawanjobvu Primary School, some 200 metres from his house.
According to Kaitoni, life was more important than anything, such that he did not hesitate to leave everything behind.
“Not that I did not need the kitchen utensils, beddings, clothes, animals and children’s learning materials; far from it. Life is more important than anything else,” he explained.
Kaitoni, however, says life has become unbearable, mainly due to resource constraints.
“I lost everything to the floods. Even the clothes I am wearing are hand-outs, given to me by well-wishers. We were a bit lucky because no one was injured or died. It was just by the grace of God that I and members of my household did not get swept away,” he added.
He said, since then, he has been struggling to find food since his crops were damaged by the floods.
While he had returned to what he calls his house— which is a shack, if the truth were to be told—he says he does not feel safe.
“Snakes and other creeping creatures can easily get into the house. People can also easily attack me because the house does not quality to be called shelter.
“I am appealing to well-wishers to help me so that I can rebuild my house and move on. I thank Oxfam and Plan International Malawi, which gave us a bucket and K25, 000 cash to be used for buying school uniforms and learning materials for our children. That said, what we received is not enough and that is why I am appealing to others for help,” he added.
Loveness Kaitoni, 24, who is the last-born in the family of seven and stays with her father, says they need more resources, both financial and material, to rebuild their lives.
“All my clothes and those of my child were washed away. Food and kitchen utensils were washed away, too. At the moment, we are struggling to sleep because water or any creature like snakes enter the shack through spaces within,” she says.
Loveness, who sells vegetables grown in the family garden, says it could be a blessing to them if someone comes in and helps out so that they can reconstruct their house.
Oxfam, in partnership with Plan International Malawi, has been implementing a project aimed at improving people’s preparedness for floods, with Daudi Kayisi, Media and Communications Manager for Oxfam, saying the initiative is bearing fruit.
“Among other things, we have managed to help community members establish and manage school woodlots to mitigate effects of disasters,” Kayisi says.
The hope is that, over time, all the broken pieces of flood-stricken people’s lives can be recollected.