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Smiles after devastating disaster

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TROUBLED WATERS—Muleso at her old house

By Chikondi Magalasi:

“My house had its roof blown off, followed by walls collapsing at midnight, we didn’t know what to do as water was everywhere and everything was wet in the house,” Emily Muleso narrated, as she recollected events when Cyclone Idai hit her village in Phalombe District in 2019.

Muleso, 72, is one of the survivors of Cyclone Idai which hit Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi on March 15 2019 where hundreds died and many were displaced.

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In Malawi, the disaster killed 60 people while nearly 87000 people were displaced after their houses and properties were destroyed due to the disaster, which was accompanied by heavy winds and rains.

The disaster led government and organisations such as Habitat for Humanity in Malawi (Habitat) to provide humanitarian support to the victims.

In Phalombe, Habitat is constructing houses for 190 households out of nearly 22,800 households who were affected by Cyclone Idai and some of the houses have since been completed.

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Muleso, who stays with her three grandchildren, is appreciative for the newly constructed two-bedroom house in Khancha Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Jenala in the district.

After the disaster in 2019, she had moved into a grass-thatched house which well-wishers had renovated for her.

She said she feels safe in her new house, considering that it has been built using cement and slowly, she is forgetting the trauma she went through.

“I never dreamt that one day I would have this beautiful house which makes me forget what happened to me during that night (when Cyclone Idai hit), with my grandchildren we now feel safe,” she said.

Muleso’s story is not different from that of 58-year-old Eliza Allan who lost her property, including her house, which collapsed as a result of the disaster.

Allan, whose house is just metres away from Phalombe River, says together with her three children, they had to escape from their house in the middle of the night.

“It was unimaginable thing, I had never seen such a situation, in the morning it’s when we saw that the whole of the house was down that I had to seek refuge in the house of a relative for some time,” she said.

And now, she has moved into her new house and she is asking Habitat and other organisations to consider constructing more houses for the rest of the survivors.

District Coordinator for Habitat, Stephen Makombe, said by the end of March this year, a total of 90 houses being constructed in Phalombe with funding from Chinese Government through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will be completed and handed over to the beneficiaries.

According to Makombe, this is the first phase which will see two T/As, Jenala and Nkhulambe, benefitting, each with 45 houses and in addition, a market shelter and a borehole.

“As a Christian organisation, we thought that we should help these friends with good houses and with a good toilet at each house, like in Phalombe from the first phase we’ve constructed a community market shelter at Maliro Market in Jenala and we’ve also drilled a borehole in Nkhulambe besides those houses,” he said.

Makombe added that the second phase of the project- funded by Japanese Government through UNDP-has already commenced and will see 100 houses being constructed by the end of May 2021.

“We are hoping to construct 50 houses in T/A Kaduya and another 50 in T/A Mkhumba, we want this to be done by May 31 this year,” he said.

Habitat will also drill two community boreholes, one in each designated T/A and also construct community market shelter at Phaloni Market as one way of restoring essential small scale infrastructures.

In case of any eventuality, through the project, the beneficiaries have been taught and advised to use the Wills and Inheritance Act to avoid conflicts among remaining siblings.

Senior Chief Nkhulambe, whose area is in the eastern part of the district, said the houses have transformed the picture of her area and has since advised beneficiaries to take care of them.

“Let me thank them for giving my people such good houses, as you can see my area has a new face, my plea to those that have benefitted is that they should plant trees around their houses.

“My people wouldn’t manage to construct these strong expensive houses on their own, after that terrible disaster they were hopeless as they were living in shelters that were endangering their lives,” she said.

Acting District Commissioner for Phalombe, Clement Ntambo, said the quality of the houses being constructed is good and they may possibly withstand disasters such as flooding and strong winds.

“I’ve visited and seen some of the houses which have been constructed, the quality is pleasing as they are resilient since they are being built with cement bricks and also the height of the foundation is also good,” he said.

Generally, Phalombe is a disaster prone district and during the rainy season, rivers such as Phalombe River flood, in the process washing away crops and leaving many people homeless.

For now, Muleso and Allan can sleep soundly in their new homes after being hit by the devastating 2019 flood disaster.

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