UNICEF brings hope to flood victims in Malawi

 

Blantyre- She wonders how she could wake up in a classroom, but later Elizabeth discovers that this room is no longer her class, but a new home.

The flash floods that hit 15 districts across the country and affected thousands of people did not spare Elizabeth and her family.

Elizabeth is a standard 4 pupil at Mwaiwathu and says the tragedy brought some fear and change in her life. She says she has been living in fear since the disaster occurred.

“I could not spend time on my books because I was still afraid of what the next minute would bring, I thought the floods would come again and I was worried,” says the intelligent Elizabeth.

Zomba experiences normal rains every year, but during the 2015 rainy season, just like in other 14 districts, the city received continuous rains that resulted into the cracking and falling of houses.

Erick Kenamu, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for Zomba District Council office says property worth millions of Kwacha was also lost in the floods. Learning too was affected.

“Most of the schools are being used as camps hence disturbing education, as I am speaking, 23 schools are being used as camps,” says Kenamu.

“About 2000 households were affected here in Zomba which includes children also, and the district recorded 10 deaths,” he adds.

But Kenamu appreciates the role government and its partners like the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef), Save the Children, Islamic Trust, Hunger Project, World Vision, World Food Programme (WFP), Ministry of Lands, Dodma, Centre for Social Concern, Toyota Malawi, Real Insurance have played in responding to the disaster.

According to Kenamu, the help from UNICEF cuts across many sectors like health, education, water and sanitation and even child protection unlike other organisations which he observes, focus on one sector.

“The list will be incomplete if I won’t mention UNICEF, it should be mentioned because it is cutting across all of the problems that people in the camps are facing and also making sure that rights of children are not violated,” thanks Kenamu.

According to Angela Travis, Communications Officer for UNICEF Malawi, the organization is primarily responsible for the rights and needs of children.

“As UNICEF, it is our job to look at any situation in the country and see what we can do to make sure that children are able to realize their rights, like the right to go to school, right not to be abused and right to have decent health care,” says Travis.

Following the recent floods in Zomba, most children in the area were disturbed in their daily life and were traumatised.

Of the 25 000 children who were affected by floods, 14 000 were girls.

Miriam Kaluwa of the Department of Education at UNICEF Malawi said in an interview that the organisation has reached out to almost 5 000 children.  

“We advocate that children should go and attend Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD) and we are also advocating for the establishment of children corners where they can go after school hours to chat and express their emotions and situations,” said Kaluwa.

At Mwaiwathu Camp in the district, Community Based Children Corners (CBCC) is said to be playing a great role in helping such children to get back to their normal lives.

According to Elizabeth Chagunda, Community Child Protection worker at Mwaiwathu School, they are helping the children to reflect on their life, owing to the disaster which affected their minds.

“We teach them psychosocial, letting them know that this is not the end of their lives and in the process reflecting on how life can be at times and we also provide alphabetical lessons to the under aged,” said Chagunda.

But Chagunda said lack of teachers and classes were setbacks.

“A lot of teachers stopped coming. We have 314 children but we have two teachers only which is a very big challenge as it is not easy to handle children,” explained Chagunda.

She however stated that UNICEF has been helpful. 

The organisation provided a tent which they now use as a class.

It also distributed play kits for children that make them renew their minds.

As displaced families relocated, UNICEF is also supporting schools to reopen so that children in the camps and those in host communities can continue with their studies.

To ensure that schools continue housing families   function as schools, UNICEF has provided school tents and supplies to set up temporary learning spaces during daytime, and accommodation for families at night. 

Eleven year old Elizabeth Amosi, a flood victim who continues to benefit from UNICEF says the support being rendered has completely changed her life for the better.

“I now understand that in life a lot of things happen, I learn psychosocial here and am able to live without fear as I used to live before the disaster,” she said.

Elizabeth is just one example of children who have been affected by floods countrywide.  The support, like that being provided by UNICEF would go a long way in ensuring that they understand the philosophy of life and prepare them for a better future. – Malawi News Agency

April 2015
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