Following the devastation caused in early March 2019 from Cyclone Idai, a flood assessment was conducted in the district of Nsanje and showed that many toilets and bathrooms were badly damaged or had overflowed. As a result, there was an increase in open defecation, resulting in community members suffering from diarrhoea and other water borne diseases. Residents believe that some of the deaths that occurred in the community were because of poor hygiene conditions.

With our support, flood affected households were provided with water, sanitation and hygiene promotion messaging.  20 local volunteers were recruited to assist in monitoring water supplies, helping to manage solid waste, and spreading key hygiene promotion messages. The volunteers also helped to distribute water filters to beneficiaries in order for them to access safe, clean water.

“Before I received a water filter, I used to store drinking water in an uncovered bucket, taking it without treating the water. I am very lucky, I have the water filter now and I am able to use it to filter bacteria from unclean water” explained one of the beneficiaries in Makhanga.

She applauded the volunteers that they had been so helpful in spreading the hygiene promotion messages and ensuring that households understood all environmental risks, and how to reduce risks.

Cecilia and her grandchildren are pictured amongst drowned maize in a village in southern Malawi. Cecilia farmed 1½ acres, but two thirds of her farmland was flooded, due to Cyclone Idai. Vegetables were washed away, interplanted between maize, which drowned. Cecilia’s house, where she lived with her six children and two grand-children, collapsed with flooding caused by the cyclone. “Before dawn, we came out and saw flood water,” she said. Her sons, who were sleeping in a separate hut, came out saying water was coming in. Cecilia and her family tried to take shelter on the raised veranda of another building, until the water rose higher. “I took the children and put them on the road there, because it’s higher ground,” she said, pointing to the raised dirt track that runs past her house. “I saw that the house started cracking under the water pressure,” before collapsing. With water levels still rising, Cecilia telephoned someone she knew with a boat, who rescued them and took them to a nearby primary school, where people from the surrounding area were sheltering.

Cecilia lost much of her crop to the flooding, but managed to salvage some maize. What little she did save, she says, is all they have for the whole year. The area has flooded before, but not to this extent, Cecilia explained. “What scared us most was the force of the water. The water was moving very fast, it was very serious,” she said. “We were all afraid that we were going to be washed away.” As a result of the destruction water sources were badly damaged, and flood affected communities were in desperate need for access to clean, safe water.

Over 10,352 people in communities like Cecilia’s have been supported by The One Foundation. We helped to improve water provision in a local health centre in Makhanga, Nsanje district, and to the surrounding population, ensuring access to clean, safe water. Hygiene promotion and awareness sessions were conducted to 2,000 households in the area, to help raise awareness of good hygiene practices and to prevent the spread of waterborne disease.

Fainesi, 65, sits with friends where they sleep in the Bangula camp, southern Malawi. Fainesi and her family and neighbours left the village of Chikazi after their houses collapsed in the flooding caused by Cyclone Idai. Over several days, heavy rains caused the water level to rise. “The river was overflowing, and the water was coming into our houses,” she said. “That’s when I saw part of my house falling.”

They ran to higher ground, and shouted for people with canoes to rescue them. “We thought we were going to die,” she said. Men in canoes were picking up stranded villagers, taking them to a road above the water line, before going back to rescue more people.

Now, living in the camp, Fainesi says that whilst there are some distributions of food, it’s not enough, and is infrequent. There are also not enough toilets for the thousands of people living here.

With help from The One Foundation, those living in the Bangula camp have been supported by the maintenance of the communal camp toilet system, to help prevent the spread of disease in the densely populated camp. Hygiene kits have also been distributed containing essential items such as buckets, soap, laundry soap and sanitary pads.

For people like Fainesi, being thrust into a camp and relying on aid is a shock. “Before the floods we were productive,” she said. “We were able to farm, we ate our own food. We lived a normal life.” With crops, goats, and chickens, food was not a big problem, but in the flooding, they lost everything. ” I never imagined in my life that I would live in a camp,” she said. “It really saddens me. This happened so suddenly. Being in a camp is hard. You have no peace of mind, we are sad every day.”