With more rain expected in flood-stricken Malawi and camps for displaced people overwhelmed, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for 2.6 million Swiss francs to help 42,000 desperate people.
Heavy rains have ceased for now but are forecast to return and could continue for weeks.
“A dire situation could be exacerbated. Things could go from bad to worse,” he added.
So far 176 people are reported to have died while least 174,000 are displaced.
The government estimates that in total 630,000 people have been affected.
Charles says camp numbers are certainly growing as sodden houses collapse and more people emerge from the devastation.
The appeal will support emergency operations of the Malawi Red Cross Society which is already aiding thousands of destitute people in the worst-affected southern districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe and urban Blantyre.
They will target the immediate needs of 7,660 households for nine months.
Grossly inadequate shelter in the improvised camps to which people have fled, and the risk of epidemic disease, are major Red Cross concerns. With sources of water contaminated and sanitation poor, there is mounting fear of water-related sickness, and cholera is endemic.
Malaria can be expected to spread with stands of stagnant water providing mosquitoes with breeding grounds.
“I saw a camp of 2,500 people where 40 or 50 people were sheltered in tents meant for no more than ten. Food distribution was intermittent and those 2,500 people had access to just four latrines. That’s the common picture. The camps are overcrowded and overwhelmed,”Charles underlined the conditions.
The appeal seeks to fund operations providing food and shelter, safe water and sanitation, and health and care services. Red Cross volunteers would also reunite families the floods have separated.
Across the devastated south, people lost sight of loved ones in the chaos of evacuation, and children now on their own in the makeshift camps is a Red Cross priority.
The planned response reflects the current situation and will be adjusted in the light of new developments and more detailed assessments now being conducted by a Field Assessment Coordination Team (FACT).