Floods in Malawi

April Floods Affect Over 5,000 Families in Karonga District, Malawi

By January Watchman Mvula, Executive Director, SURCOD

"At SURCOD, we are very concerned with the floods that occurred during the first week of April 2011, which swept away more crops – as well as more houses in Karonga District, and which affected over 5,000 families.

At SURCOD (Sustainable Rural Community Development Organisation), we are very concerned with the floods that occurred during the first week of April 2011, which swept away more crops – as well as more houses in Karonga District, and which affected over 5,000 families.

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The situation worsened on the 2nd and 6th of April, wherein heavy rains caused most of the rivers to bust. Families had to camp in schools and churches.

Nature of the Damage

April 2nd

788 families were affected, 120 houses were destroyed, 32 families are camped at the African National Church; 18 families are camped in one school, 40 in another.

No death or injury was reported; food stuff and household utensils were washed away, and crops – especially maize, cassava, and rice fields, were damaged (data not yet available).

Also, two cows, three pigs, and a number of chickens were reported missing.

April 6th

4270 households were affected, 421 houses collapsed, four deaths, one injury, and 224 families are camped, in schools, churches, and the health centre.floods3

As on April 2nd, food stuff and household items were destroyed and washed away, as well –   the maize, cassava, and rice fields were     damaged (data not yet available).

Three cows, seven pigs, and a number of chickens are missing.

SURCOD assisted in an assessment conducted by the District Assembly.  This assessment was done by all stake holders at the district, because we promote working together and sharing information in terms of emergency

The Effect of Floods on Crops

People in the flooded areas mainly depend on rain-fed agriculture, supplemented by irrigation.floods5

The three main food crops are maize, cassava, and rice (in that order), and availability of the these crops fluctuates according to the production cycle.

As a result of the floods, a significant loss in maize production in the affected areas is expected.

Cassava production will also be severely affected. Rice production is expected to be mildly affected, and expected to recover once the water subsides – unless completely washed away.


  • Provision of relief food items, to address the immediate food insecurity for households affected by floods (from now until results of further assessments).
  • Set up School Meals Programme and community-based child care centres within the affected areas.
  • Promotion of irrigation using early maturing crop varieties, as a recovery measure.
  • Provision of appropriate farm inputs such as seed and fertilizer for winter cropping (irrigation)
  • Provision of income-generating activities amongst the affected communites in order to restore/rebuild livelihoods.
  • Provision of soft loans.
  • Rehabilitation/construction/strengthening of existing dykes and construction of new dykes where necessary.
  • Advocacy/promotion of disaster mitigation measures including building houses that can withstand flooding.
  • Advocacy on disaster mitigation such as taking care of drainage systems and dykes.
  • Proper clean-up of the market should be done with the involvement of the traders. Further to that, the drainage system of the town (council) needs to be reworked on.

Impact of Floods on Schools

School-going children were not in school when the flood occurred and are still at home for holidays; they were expected to return to school on 26th April,  2011.floods4

Karonga has 11 zones with a total of 1,235 teachers to 95,309 pupils, of which 48,388 are boys and 46,921 are girls. The most affected schools are in Ipyana and Lupaso zones.

Since children were not in school during the flood, there was no immediate effect on schooling. However, a number of issues were identified that need to be looked into to ensure the learning environment is safe when children return to their schools. These are:

  • Toilets either filled up to the brim or overflowed.
  • If some households will still be in camps, then tents need to be provided to minimise disruption learning.
  • Once the households go back to their homes, ensure hat the surroundings are clean and safe for the children.
  • Availability of safe water.
  • Damage on teaching and learning materials. This was reported at St. Mary's Boys, and Masoko.

Key actions

The following are the key actions that need to be undertaken in schools that were water logged to protect children from infections once they get back to schools.

  • Deworming all children (SHN).
  • Supply water guard  for water purification.
  • Source IEC materials on hygiene (in Tumbuka language).
  • Supply teaching and learning materials.
  • Tents to be on standby for Lulindo, St. Mary's boys.
  • Malungo, Wovwe, and Vua schools in case floods come again.
  • The hole at the back of Eco Sun Toiles needs to be sealed with bricks and cement.
  • Construct dikes both sides of North Rukuru river.

Karonga Health – Disaster Preparedness Response

The Central Market Place has stagnant, filthy, and stinky water, plus debris.

Recommendation is disinfection of the market floor with chlorine after a proper clean up and health education band/team and materials  [availability].

The Police Station has a lot of stagnant and filthy water, plus refuse.

Recommendation is disinfection with chlorine after drainage, health education team/materials, and provision of mosquito nets (100).

The Camps have the problem of overcrowding, few mosquito nets available, and no hand-washing facilities.

Recommendation is provision of extra sleeping space (three more tents), extra mosquito nets, (2,000), and buckets/washing facilitities (10).

Need increased stocks of medication:

  • Benzathine pencillin – 2,000 doses
  • Gentamycin – 2,000 doses
  • Erythromycin – 2,000 doses
  • Doxycycline – 2,000 doses
  • Metronidazole – 2,000 doses

UNICEF Feed the Children, and World Vision International have thus far helped the people of Karonga District with various sanitation items such as five drums of chlorine (UNICEF) and sachets of waterguard (all three).

Priority Areas

The priority areas are: food, shelter, water and sanitation, and risk reduction measures.


Ongoing, pressing challenges involve:

  • Transport and fuel.
  • Inadequate relief item.
  • Lunch allowances.
  • Impassable roads.

Concern About Souring Relationship with Britain

We are also concerned with the situation where the British High Commissioner has been chased by the current government, as well as our High Commissioner in Britain who has also been sent back to Malawi.

Britain is one of the long, outstanding donors in the country, since Malawi was a British Protectorate.

As one of the civil organisations, we know how powerful Britain is in our country in terms of aid, so we are not sure whether some of the projects will be suspended or not.

If you would like more information on this situation or want details on how to help,


January Watchman Mvula, Executive Director

Sustainable Rural Community Development Organization [SURCOD] Malawi,
P. O. Box 45,Chididi, Nsanje, Malawi.


Phone: +265888745752