Natural disasters bite as Machinga is swallowed


By Beaton Chimenya, Contributor:

AFFECTED—Chiwalo (centre) points at the remains of his house

The rains, which started falling in droves on December 15, did not come as a surprise to many people.

What came as a surprise is the devastation they left in their wake; piles of soil in places where, hours before, structures that answered to the name house, kitchen, bathing room or toilet stood; tears running down the faces of adult citizens who should know better that, on an ordinary day, crying is for children; carcasses of domestic animals that, moments before, were drunk with the gift of life; and, of course, a few people nursing broken bones.


At least these are some of the things which— before the rains came and swept all the joy away— could be seen with the physical eye for, if the truth be told, some of the things which, moments before, could be seen, disappeared when the last drop of rains stopped falling. One of these is the living thing called maize crop.

Before the rains came, gardens had been teeming with lively plants that beautified the land roundabout with their piercingly green leaves. The colour green, in districts such as Machinga, inspires hope; hope that, food production-wise, the future is bright. As bright as can be.

After all, when the rainfall delayed, some Malawians in the part of the world that is Malawi, and Machinga in particular, started losing hope— especially those who did not harvest enough the past year.


As they say, once beaten twice shy. Just that, when it comes to food security issues, shyness does not sting more than hunger. Nobody wants to rub shoulders with hunger.

At the height of the hunger situation in October last year, the government indicated that hunger was widespread in the country.

Over 3.3 million people were struggling to get food, the government said.

According to a press statement from Secretary to the Treasury, Ben Botolo, the government required MK20.77 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to affected people.

A food security assessment which the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) carried out at the time indicated that 3,306,405 people residing in rural areas would not be able to have food during the consumption season spanning from April 2018 and will end in March 2019.

The figure represented 18 percent out of the total projected national population which is at 17,931,637. The number of hunger victims last year increased, when compared to 1,043,000 people during the 2017/18 consumption period.

The increase has been a result of decreased agriculture production during the 2017/18 agriculture season due to unfavourable weather conditions characterised by extended dry spells which caused moisture stress in almost all districts. In addition, maize production was affected by Fall Army Worm infestation. The affected population is across the country with varying degrees of severity by districts,” the statement said.

The government then pegged the total humanitarian food required to support the affected people at 138,488 metric tonnes of maize, with an estimated cash value of about K20.77 billion.

The people of Machinga were among those affected.

However, fears of hunger dissipated this year, when, after purported delays, rains started falling.

DESTITUTE— Some of the displaced families

Just that things are getting out of hand in districts such as Machinga, this time not because of hunger but persistent heavy rains that have negatively affected some areas in the past two weeks.

One of the affected areas is that of Traditional Authority Chiwalo in Machinga North Constituency, where heavy rains and strong winds have mercilessly destroyed houses, bridges, schools and plants in some gardens.

Chiwalo says the rains poured almost for two weeks and things took a turn for the worse on December 23, around 4pm, when strong winds accompanied by thunderstorms and heavy rains destroyed everything people had worked hard to bring together.

“ As we were seated in my house, we heard a disturbing sound from the other side of our house. In no time, the iron-sheets were blown off . We rushed to a shelter but, on our way out, my wife was hit by one of the poles. She was knocked down,” Chiwalo says.

The house later collapsed.

Anisha Adamu, who stays in Malundani area, says she lost some of her crops in the garden, after they were washed away by water.

“I have lost all the maize plants in my garden. As I am speaking, I have no money which I can buy seeds with. I want to replant to feed my children this year,” Anisha says.

Meanwhile , Senior Chief Nyambi has assured those affected that the government is working on the situation.

“We have assured them that they will get relief food shortly,” says Nyambi, whose area has not been spared.

Meanwhile, Zam-Zam Foundation has pledged to come to the rescue of those who are stranded.

Zam-Zam Foundation Director, Richard Kalitendere, says they have mobilised some resources.

“After getting the sad news, we quickly mobilised resources and sourced the seeds. We want affected families to replant,” Kalitendere says.

Whatever the case, the rains are here; so are problems.

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