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Cyclone Freddy’s trail of destruction in CAMFED partner communities

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Cyclone Freddy has left a trail of destruction in CAMFED partner communities across Malawi, as well as in Mozambique and Madagascar. The most affected part of Malawi is the southern region including Nsanje, Chikwawa, Thyolo, Blantyre, Mwanza, Mulanje, Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Neno and Zomba districts – all areas that CAMFED is active in. The deadly tropical storm raged for almost a week until March 16, with heavy rains continuing to exacerbate the devastation and hamper relief efforts.

We will be rallying around partner communities – especially disadvantaged children of school-going age – for whom the cyclone is another crushing blow on top of the cholera outbreak.

Susan Silika, National Director, CAMFED Malawi

In a statement made on March 18, Malawi’s Ministry of Education announced that a short term suspension of primary and secondary school classes had been extended until March 31 (the end of semester) with a view to resuming on April 17 (when the new semester begins). There will be an earlier return for some students taking national and international examinations, and measures are being taken to support remote learning in the interim.

In the meantime, around 230 schools are being used as temporary accommodation for displaced families. Infrastructure has been damaged on a wide scale, with buildings, roads and bridges destroyed, as well as some school structures including classrooms and toilets rendered unsafe.

A school, houses and crops destroyed by Cyclone Freddy

Photos of damage inflicted by strong winds, rain and mudslides, shared by CAMFED Association and community members. These include a government primary school that CAMFED-supported students attend (top left), houses, and crops.

The cyclone has hit alongside Malawi’s most severe cholera outbreak on record, with concerns that impacts on sewage and water systems will facilitate the disease’s spread. It is also the rainy season, which is already a time associated with food scarcity within the agricultural cycle.

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CAMFED Association activism for affected communities

During previous crisis situations, including Cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 pandemic, members of our CAMFED Association of women leaders educated with CAMFED support quickly became known as ‘first responders,’ stepping up to support those worst affected in their districts. Reports of such activism are already coming to light following Cyclone Freddy.

The CAMFED Association in Chikwawa district has donated five 25kg bags of maize flour; two bales of soya pieces; 10kg of salt and more than 100 pieces of clothing to community members taking shelter at a local primary school, for example.

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Reaching the most marginalized

In Nsanje, CAMFED Association Member and District Operations Officer, Mercy Chirwa, cooked rice porridge and distributed it to 105 people in a displacement camp that had not yet received relief three days after the cyclone hit. She also checked on the welfare of children staying at the camp.

This story was then shared as inspiration among the CAMFED Association members across different districts who are engaging in similar activities to support those impacted. Young women are also circulating messages about what items are most urgently needed and in which areas – including clothes for babies and children, and menstrual products for women.

Staff – in partnership with communities and frontline champions – are also working to assess the ongoing impact on girls and young women we serve, and ensure a targeted effort to provide necessary, additional support. This includes planned outreach to support students to catch up the learning loss and help with the replenishment of supplies, as well as to enable entrepreneurs to reestablish businesses.

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