LET THERE BE LIGHT…Oxfam Continues To Restore Lives After Cyclone Idai

BY ROGERS SIULA

Some of the beneficiaries in Makhanga

Torn apart with the tragedy that was powered by Cyclone Idai, life has never been the same, recovery efforts are mitigating the status quo. 1, 400 households at Makhanga in the area of T/A Mlolo in Nsanje are technically detached from the mainland, the ruthless Idai swallowed the road network, leaving the area into an island surrounded by Shire river that is home to hippopotamus, crocodiles and of course a number of fish species.

Braving the brutal reality, locals resort to use canoes sailing through the waters fetching for necessities off-shore at Bangula Trading Centre and essentially, the unavailability of a road network has massively suffocated the delivery of aid to cyclone Idai survivors in Makhanga. It is not easy, the situation is hectic.

However, there is a ray of hope that is fully utilized to help mitigate the prevailing situation, a single sizeable motorized boat -with a maximum capacity of loading 12 people- operates and it is this vessel that moves back and forth transporting aid material from one side to the other. Upon docking, a 7 tonne-truck that got trapped on the ‘new’ island takes aid material offloaded from this motorized boat to the Makhanga hotspot, some 15 kms away on a terrible earth road that keeps meandering through thick and thin.

The reliable means of transport that bridges people

In all this, Oxfam sees no limits, the organisation goes an extra mile in reaching out to Cyclone Idai survivors to help them recover.
Last week, Oxfam continued its crusade in Makhanga, this time distributing solar lamps, mats, tarpaulins and cups to the 1, 400 households registered in the area.

The amount of excitement was overwhelming, long at last -months after their original homes were thoroughly swept away by Cyclone Idai, the households were going to have light in their homes, mats to cushion their floors and cups for increased hygiene in as far as sanitation is concerned.

Since March this year, Oxfam’s team with a pool of volunteers in Phalombe and Nsanje have been working around the clock, containing all obstacles to save and serve lives from Cyclone Idai by among other things providing access to safe water, food security interventions, hygiene and sanitation and disease prevention initiatives, supporting the recovery of crops and livelihoods as well as disaster preparedness and prevention strategies.
The teams are divided into Gender and Protection, Water and Sanitation Hygiene, Emergency Food Security Vulnerability Livelihoods and Complaints and Accountability.

Solar lamps distribution

Rose Melo (not real name) is a young survivor, she is one of the 200, 000 plus people that were rendered hopeless, homeless and helpless by Cyclone Idai -thanks to Oxfam for restoring hope, their home through help.


‘’Everything else was shattered, it was a traumatic experience to lose everything we had in a flash. Even the neighbours I used to play with are nowhere, massive volumes of water engulfed our village. We lost hope, it was a dark cloud engulfing us. God knows how we got saved and live up to this day to share this ordeal,” battled Rose to elaborate, stuttering throughout with visible devastation in her face.

Rose, just like other Idai survivors in Phalombe and Nsanje, are now able to see the light. Their goals, ambitions and composure have been reinforced and recharged as Oxfam’s humanitarian response initiatives have enabled their lives have a new lease of hope.

End of the road

However, Nsanje District Council warns some beneficiaries of aid against trading what they receive. Social Welfare Assistant for the District Emmanuel Mbenuka observed that it was retrogressive to take advantage of the situation when various institutions have invested a great deal of resources in responding to the crisis.


“Everyone has to be responsible in handling the items they have received. As social welfare, we also call on everyone to be responsible in as far as safeguarding issues are concerned, we must all protect each other’s rights. Our office is alert, any form of abuse or infringement of rights -mostly of women and the underaged will be dealt with vehemently. Don’t hesitate to report when you notice any of such occurrences,” he said.

Oxfam Field Manager for Nsanje, Jaranthowa Mwale, concurs with the district council. He highlighted that in as much as the recovery initiatives were ongoing, beneficiaries should not be selling the aid they receive.
Mwale then called on community members to be vigilant in reporting anyone that attempted to take advantage of them.


“Please, report via Oxfam complaints and feedback boxes or our toll-free helplines if you notice anyone making unethical advances on you. Remember, Oxfam aid is given for free,” he explained.

Oxfam is responding the effects of Cyclone Idai in Nsanje and Phalombe, two of the hardest hit districts in Malawi. The response program targets of 40,000 households comprising over 200,000 individuals.

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