Mulanje, MALAWI – As dark clouds rolled over Ng’omba village in Mulanje, Daliso Simon gathered her harvest in a rush, as she didn’t want to get caught in the impending storm. All week, her village had been battered by strong winds and heavy rains induced by the devastating Tropical Cyclone Freddy.
“I couldn’t go out, as it was raining heavily,” said Ms. Simon, who is seven months pregnant. “When I saw a bit of sunshine, I went into my garden to collect some fresh maize. But as soon as I did, the weather changed again.”
Incessant rains in Mulanje district had already caused damages to infrastructure in many communities. In Ng’omba village, the majority of the mud-built houses were starting to develop cracks, and many had lost their roofs in high winds.
More destruction as cyclone descends
Ms. Simon’s house had withstood these difficult conditions so far – but not for long. That evening, strong winds ripped off her roof and let in sheets of water that flooded the house, forcing her to run for shelter.
She grabbed a few belongings and strapped her two-year-old baby on her back.
“I had seen many houses in the village collapsing and didn’t want to wait for that to happen before I moved to safety,” she said.
Drenched and cold, she joined hundreds of others from her village who sought refuge at a nearby school.
“When I reached the school, my body was pain,” she said. “I needed a place to rest but the classrooms were overcrowded. I sat in a corner and someone was kind enough to give me a dry blanket.”
Mulanje is one 15 districts devastated by Tropical Cyclone Freddy. The disaster displaced more than 130,000 people, who took refuge in 128 camps spread across the district. Almost all of the camps have since been decommissioned and people have gone back to their communities to rebuild.
“When I returned back home, I found my house completely destroyed,” she said. “My husband had to put together a makeshift structure of plastic sheets as our new home.”
In Malawi, the winter season starts in June, and Mulanje can get very cold. With many of the displaced people having lost all of their household goods, the approaching winter presented another challenge, especially for pregnant women like Ms. Simon.
A warm winter for cyclone survivors
With generous support from the Republic of Korea, she and many other women and girls in Mulanje and Phalombe have been able to keep warm this winter. The Republic of Korea supported UNFPA with the provision of 3,800 dignity kits for winter and 650 torches, which were distributed to pregnant women and adolescent girls in the two districts.
This support, together with UNFPA’s ongoing Freddy response in Mulanje and Phalombe, ensured that adolescent girls and young women gained access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services and commodities. The support also helped mitigate the risks of public health and protection issues, especially gender-based violence.
“I am very grateful for having received this kit,” said Ms. Simon, who recently recovered from pneumonia due continuous exposure to the cold weather. “It will help me in many ways, particularly the blanket, as it will keep me warm during the winter.”