Torrential rains in Malawi have claimed up to 50 lives and left tens of thousands homeless, as well as threatening harvests.
The government has declared a state of emergency amid fears of food shortages in this landlocked country with a population of 16 million.
The church is responding despite its lack of resources. The Anglican mission agency Us (formerly USPG) has sent an emergency grant to support relief work in the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire.
The church is supplying affected communities with food (maize, beans and salt), plastic sheeting for temporary shelters, and other essential items, such as blankets and buckets. Churches, schools and mosques are all sheltering those whose homes have been flooded.
Bishop Brighton Malasa, of Upper Shire, reports: ‘Weather experts predict the rains will continue. We fear there will be more deaths and more loss of property.
‘We estimate that over 20,000 to 30,000 people need support. People have lost their homes, food gardens have been washed away. In short, people have lost everything.
‘A number of fatalities have been reported. Some dead bodies have been retrieved, but others may be in the sand or debris. Now we have fears around sanitation, such as outbreaks of diarrhoea.’
The archdeacon of Monkey Bay said: ‘While we thank God for the rain, we are concerned that the continuous heavy downpour has damaged houses and property. In Kela village, many have been made homeless and are currently sheltering in the church and mosque. Elsewhere, people are sheltering in schools.
‘The government has said it will assess the damage. We can only hope that assistance can be given promptly.
‘While some houses are still standing, they may not remain so because we are still at the beginning of the rainy season.’
Anne Bonger, of the Us International Team, has just returned from Malawi, where she was working with the church on a health programme.
She said: ‘At St Luke’s Hospital [an Anglican hospital supported by Us], several trees and an electric pole were blown down. The hospital has had no electricity for three days now, and it continues to pour. Some staff houses have lost their roofs. We drove past deluged fields.
‘It was awful to see the damage first-hand, knowing how much people have lost and that the poverty here is stark.
‘The local papers are calling on the government to do more in disaster prevention as flooding is a regular occurrence in some parts of the country.
‘A third of the country is affected. At least 48 people have lost their lives, with more unaccounted for.