Malawi: Young Mothers in Malawi Find a Space Safe From Tropical Storm Freddy’s Catastrophic Consequences

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Nsanje, Malawi — “We are sleeping in the cold,” says 19-year-old Mirriam Karilito, who is seven months pregnant. “And when the rains come, it’s worse.”

Tropical Cyclone Freddy made landfall in Malawi on 14 March. In its wake, hundreds of thousands of buildings have been destroyed, at least one thousand people have been killed and more than 650,000 people have been displaced.

In recent weeks, the threat from the cyclone itself has abated. But rain continues to fall, causing weakened structures to cave and exacerbating already dire conditions in the Nsanje district – especially for women and girls like Ms. Karilito.

Driven from her home by the cyclone, Ms. Karilito now lives in one of the dozens of temporary camps that have sprung up to accommodate those displaced. But her shelter, made of grass and sticks, offers scant protection.

“I fear for my health and that of my baby,” she said.

Shelter, but not safety

For women and girls, displacement presents particular challenges, including the risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.

Menstrual hygiene products are also in short supply at the camps, forcing women and girls to remain inside their shelters while menstruating.

Anne Benjamin, 15, is one of the more than 300 adolescent girls now taking refuge at a converted storage facility called Bangula camp. More than 13,000 people live there in total.

For Anne and the other girls at Bangula, it is a struggle to manage their menstrual health, as the camp offers few pit latrines and its bathrooms are in disrepair.