A mother's sacrifice
A month of heavy rain is causing severe flooding in parts of Malawi and Mozambique. In one of the worst hit regions in southern Malawi, floods have damaged vital infrastructure, ruined farmers' crops and in some cases, proved deadly. One of the many children who have been affected by the floods is 12-year-old Bertha. Bertha and her mother were trapped in their house when the flood waters rose, and sadly, only Bertha survived. Her mother sacrificed her own life in order for her to live.
By Charles Kabena
“Some merciful people passed by our house in a canoe,” Bertha remembers tearfully. “But there was not enough space. My mother asked them to take me to higher ground and to come back for her.” The canoe was already overloaded, and any additional passengers made it more likely that the boat would capsize before they made it to higher ground. After debating amongst themselves, the people in the canoe decided to take Bertha on board. They promised to try and return for her mother as soon as possible.
Sadly, when the canoe returned to the house, they discovered that Bertha's mother had passed away.
Bertha and her 14-year-old brother Amos are now orphans, having already lost their father a few years ago. The siblings are now temporarily living with their older sister Evelyn, who already has two children of her own.
“Apart from losing our mother, we lost all that we had. I survived yes, but it’s very painful,” Evelyn reflects sadly.
A very bright student who dreams of becoming a doctor one day, Bertha came top of her year in the last academic term.
Flooded by hunger
The waters have also washed away two irrigation schemes. This has spread fears of increased poverty levels as families will no longer be able to produce enough from their farms to sell at local markets.
“We relied on these schemes very much. We produced maize, tomatoes and other crops that we sold and made some good gains through which we supported our families,” said one of the farmers in the area.
“When there’s no food at home it’s very difficult for us to go to school since we are always hungry and worried that we will get back home and eat nothing as well,” worried 15-year-old Ishmael.
World Vision working in response
Robert Kisyula, the national director of World Vision Malawi, said the organisation will work closely with the government to respond to the needs of families like Bertha’s and Ishmael’s, but is concerned about the dangers posed by the flood damage. “If we are not careful, I fear we may have a cholera outbreak, considering the rising number of people coming to this evacuation centre. Only a few toilets are operational as others have been totally destroyed by the floods.”
Some of the worst affected areas in Malawi are in the lower Shire and Shire highlands. Since World Vision established evacuation centres in the area, 27,853 people have so far been assisted with food supplies, tarpaulins, hygiene kits and child friendly kits. With help from supporters, we're also working to provide the food, shelter, health services and sanitation that's so badly needed in Mozambique.