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Giving hope to homeless orphans

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By George Mhango:

PAUNDEDI—They have to plant trees

Susan Njazi, 15, is a clear example of many orphans who have no home due to devastating floods and Cyclone Idai that ravaged some parts of the country between March and April this year.

She comes from Group Village Head Kailezi’s area, Traditional Authority Tengani in Nsanje District.

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She is a Standard Six learner at Timotheos Foundation.

Susan recalls that their two-bedroomed grass-thatched house collapsed at night due to floods and stormy winds. She and her family members, then, became homeless. Other property such as food, utensils, clothes and learning materials were damaged.

“It was painful for me. We rushed to a nearby relation for shelter. This has even affected my performance in school such that I am now repeating my class because I did not perform well,” Susan laments.

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Her grandmother, Falesi Malizani, with whom she has stayed since the death of her parents, corroborated Susan’s account that Cyclone Idai did severe damage to their livelihoods.

“It is difficult to live a normal life when all your property has been damaged. It is tough raising children such as Susan when you don’t have enough resources,” says Malizani, who could not recall the year of her birth.

Generally, orphans are some of the most vulnerable populations in Malawi since floods and storms hit parts of the country, destroying houses, crops and livestock in the process.

While the Southern Region was the worst hit, other parts in the Central and Northern regions got a fair share of the disasters which left at least 60 people dead.

Statements from Capital Hill indicate that many orphans and other populations still bear the burden of Cyclone Idai and floods because they cannot afford decent homes and balanced diets.

Guardians of orphans in this case still face consequences of looking for shelter, food and clothes.

But now there is light at the end of a tunnel for hundreds of orphans and other affected families who live in flood-prone areas of southern Malawi.

Following an analysis of the negative effects of the incidents, Timotheos Foundation has constructed 181 houses in eight districts in the Southern Region with beneficiaries being mostly orphans.

Such houses have cost the charity organisation, which was established in Malawi in 2011, about K120 million.

Thus, to many orphans, mainly in the Southern Region, challenges related to shelter are over.

“It was a beautiful day, when some members of the clergy came at our school and asked for those that had their houses affected by floods and Cyclone Idai. They went into each and every classroom. Like any other affected child, I raised my hand and they promised to do something. Later, we were told that a house would be built for those affected. Now, here it is,” says Susan, with joy.

Timotheos Foundation—with funding from Canada, United States of America and Netherlands—responded to the orphans’ shelter needs when they just needed the support.

So far, 85 houses have been handed over to orphans at a symbolic event that took place in Nsanje District from where Susan and her grandmother Malizani hail.

The houses—which cost K650,000 each—have strongly-constructed foundations and iron-sheet roofs to avoid effects of floods and stormy winds.

During the hand-over event, Timotheos Foundation Director of Programmes, Charles Paundedi, urged beneficiaries to plant trees around their houses to avoid roofs from being blown off by winds.

“We have done a symbolic presentation of 85 houses in Nsanje so that victims of floods and Cyclone Idai could find shelter. We want beneficiaries to care for such houses,” Paundedi said.

In Nsanje alone, houses for 11,000 families were affected by the disasters. The District Council, through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, sought temporary shelter for the survivors.

Martin Chiwanda, who is the Desk Officer responsible for disasters in Nsanje District, praises the quality of the houses.

“These houses will help improve living standards of those who were affected most of whom are orphans. As Nsanje District Council, we are happy with this development,” Chiwanda says.

Statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare show that there are more than one million orphans in Malawi and that some of them live with grandparents, aunts or uncles.

There even are those who live alone.

In addition to this, there are many areas in the Southern Region where there are no places for orphans to live and no one to care of them.

MOFFAT—We are linking up with communities

Nsanje District Commissioner, Douglas Moffat, says what has been constructed should be translated into a lesson for communities in the flood-prone areas to learn from so that they build such kind of houses.

“We are also linking up with local people so that they learn from what has been built. We want them to built houses that are strong enough to withstand strong winds and floods,” Moffat said.

That would reduce the burden that these people experience when disasters strike. It would also lessen their poverty, in a country where over half of the population lives below the poverty line and one in 10 of the population are orphans.

For Timotheos Foundation, each orphan care centre is home to 12 to 15 orphans, who are cared for by a foster-mother who lives with them. There are currently three established orphanages and plans are there to build the fourth.

In addition to caring for orphans, Timotheos periodically engages in other forms of poverty-relief activities, such as food distribution, agricultural education, and adult literacy classes.

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