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Helping Malawi Cyclone Idai Survivors in Rebuilding their Homes

Tzu Chi volunteers from South Africa travelled some 2,400 km to Malawi to distribute cornmeal to survivors of Cyclone Idai and to assist with the reconstruction of houses destroyed by the storm in a local community.

20190320 Malawi Idai 1Bricks and cement are used to rebuild the houses for the cyclone victims.

Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall twice in Mozambique in March, causing disastrous floods in southeast Africa. According to a report from the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) dated 19th March 2019, the death toll from Cyclone Idai and the estimated damage wrought by the storm were expected to increase.

In neighbouring Malawi, Cyclone Idai caused severe flooding in many areas when it struck the country in early March. Tzu Chi volunteers in Malawi started travelling to the disaster zone to conduct disaster assessment on 11th March; they were joined by another Tzu Chi volunteer team from South Africa. The second team of volunteers took a three-day bus journey to reach Malawi, which is some 2,400 km away from their home country. Although the continued storms and muddy road conditions repeatedly hindered their relief work, the volunteers managed to overcome the hurdles to carry out their aid mission.

The volunteer team arrived at Ching'ombe, a suburb of Blantyre, the capital of southern Malawi, to provide aid to the locals affected by the cyclone. Besides distributing cornmeal, they also helped with rebuilding some houses that were destroyed by the storm. As many of these local houses are mainly made of mud, they are at risk of collapsing when there is heavy rainfall. Therefore, Tzu Chi chose to rebuild the houses with bricks and cement. Apart from a few professional local builders who received pay for their work, the rest of the manpower was made up of local residents who came to help out on their own accord.

20190320 Malawi Idai 2Tzu Chi volunteers first visited the community of Ching'ombe in 2018. The local chieftain joins Tzu Chi volunteers in helping fellow residents to rebuild their homes that were destroyed by Cyclone Idai.

The chieftain of Ching'ombe, Godfry Madukani, led his people in the reconstruction efforts. After learning that the South African Tzu Chi volunteers went out of their way and travelled some 2,400 km to Malawi just to help them, many of the locals took the initiative to help out by carrying and delivering water, sand, and bricks to the construction site.

Some local womenfolk used their own pots and ladles to prepare lunch for nearly one hundred volunteers who were working at the construction site. Some of them had young children strapped to their backs as they worked, and there were also children working alongside the adults. The little ones helped to carry bricks, chipping in their efforts to rebuild their community.

Tzu Chi volunteers were worried that the storm in the night before might damage the houses that were built halfway, but when they went to the village in the morning on 19th March, they were surprised to see that the walls of the houses were almost completed. The team who started the work had spread the word and invited more people to help out, and so they were able to build several houses instead of just one house at a time.

The chieftain said that all the villagers were very excited and happy, and expressed his deep gratitude to Tzu Chi for leading and guiding the locals in the reconstruction work.

Cyclone Idai grew to a Category 3 hurricane when it made its second landfall in Mozambique in mid-March. Both Mozambique and neighbouring Zimbabwe were struck by torrential rains, which blocked the traffic towards the disaster areas. Local Tzu Chi volunteers in these countries had prepared aid materials to get ready for disaster relief operations.

For many years, Tzu Chi volunteers in Africa have been carrying out aid work with love as well as inspiring and guiding the locals to serve as volunteers to assist others in need. Thus, the impoverished locals are able to help one another with love. Tzu Chi will continue to monitor the weather conditions and the needs of the cyclone victims in the disaster areas to plan for relief efforts in order to provide timely aid to more affected communities.

20190320 Malawi Idai 3
Local villagers posing a group photo with Tzu Chi volunteers, with some holding a packet of cornmeal that they had received from Tzu Chi.

More news updates on Tzu Chi’s Cyclone Idai relief efforts in Africa:


To support Tzu Chi’s relief operations in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique, click here to make a donation:www.tzuchi.org.sg/en/fundraising/send-love-to-africa/


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