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Churches in Malawi Respond with Shelter and Food After Deadly Cyclone

The longest-ever recorded cyclone in history—lasting 36 days, hit southeast Africa in February and killed 522, injured more than 700 people, and left over 345,000 people homeless. Cyclone Freddy traversed Madagascar, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, which was the hardest hit. Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera declared a 14-day national mourning period after nearly half of his country was destroyed by Freddy, reports Al Jazeera.

Churches immediately responded to the disaster by setting up temporary emergency shelter and providing food to the victims. Vincent Moyo, Tearfund’s Country Director for Malawi, said “The church has already started responding by providing shelter and food to those whose houses have been destroyed. The church is also providing psychosocial support to the bereaved as they bury the dead.”

The church has already started responding by providing shelter and food to those whose houses have been destroyed. —Vincent Moyo, Tearfund’s Country Director for Malawi

“In Chikwawa, Tearfund’s partner Eagles are already working with internally displaced people,” Moyo added. “Those affected have lost their food supplies. Houses have collapsed and kitchen utensils and cooking pots have been washed away in the flood water.”

Heavy rains, floods and landslides made it challenging for rescuers and humanitarian helpers to reach survivors. The storm wiped out homes, destroyed roads and bridges, and flooded farmlands. It also damaged major infrastructure in telecommunications, electricity and transport.

“A lot of areas are inaccessible, restricting movement of assessment and humanitarian teams and life-saving supplies,” revealed Paul Turnbull, the World Food Program’s director in Malawi. “The true extent of the damage will only be revealed once assessments have been concluded.”

“Freddy is having a major socio-economic and humanitarian impact on affected communities,” commented Dr. Johan Stander, Services Director at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian —Blantyre Synod established a committee to spearhead disaster relief operations. It opened church buildings to provide safety to displaced persons and treat injured Malawians. “The CCAP Blantyre Synod commends the government, religious bodies, civil societies, and all Malawians of good will who have started reaching out to our brothers and sisters,” said Rev. Dr Billy Gama, general secretary.

The church leader appealed to local and international communities to help them in their humanitarian mission. “Let us hold our hands together, regardless of our religious, political, and tribal affiliations in supporting our brothers and sisters during this difficult time,” he requested.

In addition to being the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, Freddy became a record-breaking cyclone due to its most accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) and most cycles of intensification, according to the WMO.

“World record or not, Freddy will remain in any case an exceptional phenomenon for the history of the South-West Indian Ocean on many aspects: longevity, distance covered, remarkable maximum intensity, accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) amount, impact on inhabited lands … but it will be necessary to wait until the system ends its life cycle to make an exhaustive assessment,” said Sebastien Langlade, Head of Operations at Regional Specialized Meteorological Center, La Réunion.

Edgar Jone, Tearfund’s Country Director for Mozambique, pointed out that Cyclone Freddy was more dreadful compared to other cyclones. “Although cyclones are to be expected at this time of year, our experience is that they are becoming much more intense and dangerous as a result of climate change. Being prepared with plans for evacuation and emergency relief is essential to save lives.”

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