Love reigns in ruins
By Alick Ponje:
The raging floods and hailstorms that destroyed over 130 houses in Mulanje North brought to the fore the truth about the vulnerability of a people trapped in plain-sight danger.
They also reminded them about the grace that immediately fell on them at the height of the ruins left behind by a natural disaster for which they were never prepared.
The 130 families are poor and among those least equipped to bear a damaging natural phenomenon that swept through Sub-Traditional Authority (STA) Ndanga’s flat stretch on that dark December 23 afternoon.
“Had it come at night, my daughter and I would have lost our lives,” Rhoda Mtokosa, a mother of one, whose raw-brick house was completely razed down by the floods, recounts.
It started with her house’s eastern wall which was being badly hit by strong waves of wind and hard-hitting raindrops.
The wall slowly crumbled to the floor, weakening others in the process. In a blink, the whole house was down, burying and breaking utensils and soaking flour and beans.
They had just exited the crumbling structure in time to watch it from a distance crush onto its base.
“The rains had been falling for about four hours non-stop. We sought refuge at a relative’s place before moving to rent a house at a nearby trading centre,” Mtokosa says.
It is the first time for her to rent a house in her own village. She pays K4,000 a month and after the first payment, her biggest worry was where she would get the money for the following month.
“I have to work in other people’s crop fields to earn something for food and rent. However, the money is not enough as I also have to think about replacing the damaged utensils and to construct a new house,” Mtokosa says.
From that dark day, her prayer has been to continue enduring the aftermaths of the disaster on a rugged path to recovery.
It is a prayer for many other households that were hit by the disaster that took away their shelter, clothes and food, leaving them in dire straits.
“It is very warming that in times like these, some people can decide to help us to rebuild our livelihoods,” Mtokosa says of Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) which has come to the rescue of the 130 households.
The humanitarian institution disbursed cash amounting to K4.6 million to the affected families with the worst hit going home with K52,000.
“The money will help us replace what we have lost. It is a huge starting point,” Mtokosa states.
In the ruins, she and several others who have been aided by MRCS feel their pain lessened by a well-timed gesture from an institution whose workers travel to disaster areas, as first responders, even on Christmas and New Year days.
“Our work is humanitarian. When it comes to responding to the needs of those affected by different kinds of accidents, time does not matter, that is why we are here on New Year,” MRCS Disaster Risk Reduction Manager, George Mwimaniwa, said on Tuesday.
He recounts that the humanitarian institution assessed the situation in STA Ndanga and immediately responded to the disaster to augment the recovery process of the victims.
They are also responding to other unforeseen circumstances including hunger with support from partners such as the European Union.
MRCS is aiding families that were declared food insecure in the whole of Mwanza District with cash transfers amounting to K350 million.
“Our support may not be enough but it provides a starting point especially for those just hit by disasters. We would like people here [in STA Ndanga] to use the money we have given them to rebuild their houses.
“But we appreciate that they have many other needs and they are free to use it for what will benefit them most. They can even keep it at the bank,” Mwimaniwa said.
Benjamin Seula of Beseni Village, whose house was destroyed by the floods, says the disaster left his family terribly devastated.
The burden of recovering is huge but aid from well-wishers ensures that his family remains on its feet.
“I will ensure that the money that [MRCS] has given me is used to rebuild our lives. We have to restore our livelihoods. The support is timely,” he explained.
Understanding that the damage to his house might have been aggravated by weak construction in sandy soils, Seula has vowed to fortify his new house from weather shocks.
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