Malawians in SA donate food and clothes in aftermath of Cyclone Freddy

As of Tuesday, 676 people had died and 538 are still missing

By Thomas Kachere

30 March 2023

A Malawi Red Cross aid worker assisting people who have been left destitute by Cyclone Freddy which left 676 people dead and 538 still missing. Photos: Lloyd Chitsulo

Malawians living in South Africa are digging deep in their pockets to collect money and essential items to send home in the wake of the devastating cyclone Freddy earlier this month.

Cyclone Freddy, the longest cyclone on record, has claimed at least 676 lives and lat least 538 people are still missing, according to a statement by the Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi on 28 March. Thousands of households have been displaced following the strong winds, flooding and mudslides in the country’s southern region.

GroundUp reported on the case where local musician Giboh Pearson survived the floods by climbing a mango tree near his home. Pearson explained how he woke up to find his mattress floating away.

Now, expats in South Africa are responding to calls from officials and organisations in Malawi, asking for any form of help.

Districts that have been the worst hit include Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Mwanza, Neno, Nsanje, Thyolo, Phalombe and Zomba where issues of water and sanitation remain serious concerns.

Saunders Juma, living in Johannesburg, is leading a team of people who have started collecting funds and goods. So far they have already collected various items which include six large parcels of clothes contributed from KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“We have created groups on social media to mobilise support for food, clothes, money and tents as well as other sanitary products to be sent to Malawi to assist the survivors on the ground,” said Juma. He said that some Malawians in Namibia have also donated money directly to relatives, organisations or through churches.

Survivors of Cyclone Freddy receive aid at Mendulo Primary School evacuation camp in Mulanje District in Malawi. The camp is managed by Malawi Red Cross.

This week, weather reports indicate that the cyclone is extending to central and northern regions of Malawi. For this reason, Juma said they are urging more people to donate non-perishable food and emergency items like clothes, diapers and blankets.

“We are getting a letter from the Malawi High Commission in Pretoria to notify the Malawian border at Mwanza to alert them of the [donated] goods so they can allow it to pass by public transport.” He urged local authorities in Malawi to speedily provide assistance to those left destitute and without shelter.

According to Juma, Cyclone Freddy should be a wake-up call to the Malawi government to have a plan in place to deal with mass disasters like this one.

On Tuesday, Malawi Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe announced in Parliament in Lilongwe adjustments to the 2023/24 budget to help cushion the impact the cyclone has had on the economy. These include that expenditure for some ministries and departments will be cut.

Gwengwe said additional funds have been channelled to the Malawi Defence Force to urgently procure two search and rescue helicopters.

For more information on how to donate, Juma said people can contact Pastor Greyson Mikuwa at +265980008653 or Lenzo Kalonga at +265888272240.