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UN Calls for Urgent Help for Malawi Cyclone Survivors

People walk past homes damaged by Cyclone Freddy in Chilobwe, Malawi, March 17, 2023.

The United Nations and humanitarian partners in Malawi are calling for $70.6 million to help more than a million people who were affected by Cyclone Freddy.

The storm, which also hit Mozambique and Madagascar, killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 650,000 in southern Malawi.

The U.N. says the flash appeal will provide shelter, nutrition, health, water and sanitation for those hardest hit by the crisis.

The appeal comes on top of the $45.3 million called for earlier this year by humanitarian partners to respond to a cholera outbreak, bringing the total revised flash appeal to $115.9 million.

The U.N. says the funds would enable it to work swiftly in support of the Malawi government-led response to assist communities affected by Cyclone Freddy and cholera.

U.N. resident coordinator in Malawi Rebecca Adda-Dontoh said Malawians have mobilized to support one another in this time of tremendous need, and the appeal aimed to step up solidarity as the international community.

The cyclone destroyed many bridges and cut off roads in Malawi, making many areas reachable only by boats and aircraft.

Government statistics show that the cyclone left at least 676 people dead, and the death toll is expected to rise, as more than 600 others are still missing.

Werani Chilenga, chairperson for the committee on natural resources and climate
change in Malawi’s parliament, said the devastation caused by the cyclone would have been less had the country done a better job of managing its natural resources.

“We have almost lost all the forests. Our land is degraded,” he said. “What we have already started doing as a committee is to lobby the government to come up with deliberate policies where they should distribute these gas stoves for free to people living in cities and towns. Because if you look at the charcoal market, it is found in cities.”

The committee donated gas-powered stoves to cyclone victims living in a camp in Blantyre on Sunday to dissuade them from using charcoal.

“If we can’t do that then these calamities are here to stay,” Chilenga said. “And each year out, year in, we shall be coming here donating food items to people staying in camps, which is what we don’t want as Malawians.”

The U.N. said in a statement that the appeal aims to provide an integrated response — including shelter, nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene and protection — for those hardest hit by the crisis.

Reverend Moses Chimphepo, director for preparedness for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi, said the government is now working on helping survivors move away from disaster-prone areas and start a new life.

“With the food which the government is providing, we are trying to put together a package and mobile (mobilize) enough resources and then give it to the district councils so that they can give to those people who are willing to move,” he said.

In the meantime, Malawi Vice President Saulosi Chilima has asked city authorities in Blantyre to override a court ruling that allowed residents to build unauthorized homes in hilly areas.

Thousands of people in Blantyre had their houses washed away and hundreds of others were killed when Cyclone Freddy caused mudslides on hills in Chilobwe Township.