Church support for flood relief in Malawi

The Church of Scotland is supporting flood relief efforts in Malawi.

The Church of Scotland is providing support to relief efforts in Malawi which has suffered the most devastating floods in its history.

Floods there have left hundreds dead and many more homeless. Farmers have seen their crops ruined by Cyclone Bansi. Two weeks after the cyclone struck the full extent of the flooding in Malawi is beginning to be understood.

While Malawi is prone to natural disasters, including heavy rains and drought, this year's rains started as normal in late December. But from early January the rains have been constant and heavier than normal, causing problems with crop growth. Increasing climate change has played a role in creating the situation in Malawi.

The Church of Scotland is part of a global ecumenical movement of churches responding to climate change. The Church is concerned that climate change poses a serious and immediate threat to people everywhere, particularly to the poor.

Here people connected to the Church of Scotland provide eyewitness accounts of the devastation there.

Isobel Phiri, an elder of the Scots Kirk in Geneva and Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, has her family home in Zomba, Malawi.

She says: "My family and I have settled in Zomba. We go to Zomba Zero CCAP of the Blantyre Synod when we are on holiday in Malawi where we had a service on climate change. For two weeks before the service, we had non-stop rain.

"What were unusual were the landslides that blocked the roads to Old Nice where we stay. Worse were the floods in the suburbs and villages below, crops were damaged and some houses were demolished.

"I was particularly touched when the family of our guard had to come and seek refuge at our home because their house in the village, which they only finished building last year, was demolished.

"Zomba was also affected with a shortage of clean tap water and electricity while the floods were going on. So we had no tap water and no electricity for extended periods. We were told the dam on the plateau, which is the source of piped water for Zomba, had flooded and the gates were opened to reduce the pressure.

"This meant unprocessed water was now reaching the people as the electric pump was unable to clean the pipe water. We had to buy drinking water and draw water from streams to flush the toilet. For those who could not afford to buy water, they received water from army tractors, which were distributing water to the affected residents of Zomba.

"It was the context of this unusual experience in Zomba that the climate change message of the church made so much sense. The government message was stop cutting trees and plant new trees to stop the floods and landslides. While we are planting new trees, there is no alternative offered to those who depend on charcoal and wood for cooking, who are the majority of Malawians. We need to offer ordinary people means to cook that is within their economic means without using wood.

"The full impact of the flooding in Malawi is beginning to be understood. With the floods washing away crops, destroying homes and communities the situation for many is devastating."

Dr Ruth Shakespeare updates us on the critical situation at Mulanje Mission Hospital:

"There are 1480 people who have lost their homes, and are still in need of blankets, plastic sheeting for temporary shelter, buckets for water, and a basic foodstuff package for each family (maize, beans, cooking oil and likuni phala). More than 3000 pit latrines have collapsed in this area, and rebuilding toilets is an urgent public health priority. Mulanje Mission Hospital has already seen an increase in patients with severe diarrhoea, and we need to be prepared for a cholera outbreak.

Rev Alex Maulana, General Secretary of Blantyre Synod, says: "The floods have left behind unspeakable and numerous challenges which require rapid response. We are grateful to the Church of Scotland for the immediate donation of £1,000 for food relief and the further £4,500 from the Scottish Government to support the relief work in the Synod of Blantyre."

If you or your church wish to support those affected then any donations to this work, can be sent to Elizabeth White, (Finance officer), The Church of Scotland World Mission Council, 121 George Street EH24YN, Edinburgh earmarked for 'Blantyre Synod, flood relief'.