Floods keep haunting communities on the northern side of Karonga, with almost 1 000 households comprising about 5 000 people displaced and plunged into worsening destitution for the past week.
According to disaster management officer Walusungu Mwafulirwa, nearly 958 people had been forced to seek refuge in unsanitary congested camps having been uprooted from their homes by heavy rains that have been recurring since Monday when the Department of Meteorology issued a warning of floods along North Rukuru, Lufilya and Kyungu rivers.
However, Nation On Sunday can confirm that 276 families in Karonga Nyungwe Constituency, almost 50 kilometres south of Karonga town, also face untold misery having been displaced when Wovwe and Nyungwe rivers swelled on Friday.
Random visits to affected localities show the survivors are in dire need of food supplies and shelter, notwithstanding water treatment chemicals, mosquito nets and latrines as their marshy camps are prone to malaria and diarrhoea, among other diseases.
“This is the greatest tragedy since 2013 when we last had devastating floods,” said McBester Mwangunga who heads a village social protection committee in group village head Gweleweta where scores of families have escaped to Chimalabanthu African Methodist Apostolic Church.
The camp opened with just 76 families on Monday, when a nightly downpour that started on Sunday evening, sent Kibwe and Kaundi rivers overflowing across the rice-growing setting in Karonga North. But the number of families camping there had bulged to about 120 by Friday.
Resident reverend MacLean Nyirenda termed the breakdown of water, sanitation and hygiene as a silent humanitarian crisis likely to expose survivors into an avoidable disease outbreak.
At Kibwe Rural Hospital, nurse Sela Maganga, whose house was in the middle of the overflow of Kaundi said cholera, which has killed about 20 Malawians since December last year, has been looming due to low use of protected latrines in the area.
“The floods deepen the public health crisis because most households have no toilets and the few latrines in sight are shallow and not protected,” said Maganga.
At Kibwe Police Station, the floods have displaced four households comprising 17 people who are living in a dilapidated three-bedroomed house meant for the unit’s officer-in-charge.
Poor housing at Kibwe has forced almost 10 officers to flee from the flood – prone staff houses to rented houses in the neighbourhood where the swelling streams caused havoc as well.
In an interview, disaster management officer Mwafulirwa forecast a worse crisis if the rains continue.
Chief Kilupula on Friday toured Kakoma Camp where about 1 500 people from 286 households are hibernating in anticipation for sunny days. Other casualties include about 1 400 people and 276 families at Wovwe.
Town planning specialist Mtafu Zeleza Manda, who is spearheading Mzuzu University’s Africa Urban Risk Knowledge to unravel the recurrent disaster in Karonga, said existing disaster risk management committees are available but hugely neglected.
By Friday, some of the victims had received two bucketfuls of maize, cups, plates, maize, salt, canned beef and sugar each.n