As the search and rescue efforts continue in the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy, which ravaged through southern Malawi, hundreds of survivors in evacuation camps are yearning for a fresh start.
The devastating cyclone has left a trail of destruction in its wake, with many houses submerged in water and debris, leading to death of over 500 people, and displacement of over 500,000 people.
Despite the tireless efforts of rescue teams, many victims are still missing, and the death toll is still on the rise, leaving some survivors hopeless.
“I’m uncertain about what my future holds, but I feel compelled to begin afresh. The disaster took away all of my immediate family, and while starting over may seem straightforward, the thought of living without them is unimaginable,” Samuel Simwaka, a 25-year-old man, told Xinhua at a camp in Blantyre City.
“My family was my pride and joy, but now that it’s gone, I have nothing left to remind me of my previous life, no property or belongings. I’m completely on my own,” he added, tears filling his eyes.
Simwaka, who has tragically lost both of his parents and a brother, was, at the time of the interview, working on setting up a sleeping tent with his new friends. The two have all faced similar situations and they are currently residing at an evacuation camp in the commercial city.
The camp, a primary school, is providing temporary shelter to over 1,500 survivors.
On the other side of the city, 16-year-old girl, Esime Kavaro, from a location called Naotcha recalls what happened on the night of the catastrophe of March 12.
Although her home stood the intense weather, her neighborhood was completely destroyed.
“We had to leave our home because of what happened. It was something we had never experienced before,” explained the teenager, who was staying with a brother.
“Although our home survived, I cannot shake off the thought of what I witnessed. The incident caused a lot of damage to both lives and property, and I am struggling to come to terms with it,” she lamented.
Despite the challenge, Esime hopes to move on with her life once all is resolved. Inspired by what she has experienced; Esime is considering enrolling in the military in the future to assist others who may face similar challenges.
According to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), Cyclone Freddy has killed 511 people, with 1,724 people injured, and 564,239 people displaced as of March 25, 2023.
There are also concerns that the death toll from the disaster in southern Malawi could rise to 1,000 due to the widespread impact of the destruction in many parts of the region.
During his first visit to the victims of the cyclone Freddy, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera appealed to the international community to provide aid to the country.
He described the disaster as the worst in Malawi’s history and expressed deep concern for those affected. The president stressed the need for additional support from the international community to ensure the victims receive adequate help.
“We require urgent assistance,” he stated to the media. “We urgently need helicopters to airlift food supplies and other equipment now that the situation has slightly improved.”
More humanitarian aid and support continue to pour in from international and local organisations and individuals, including the Red Cross Society of China and the Chinese community in Malawi.
Although many people are still receiving assistance from the government and other well-wishers in camps, some victims have expressed their desire to leave the camps soon and begin rebuilding their lives.
Lughano Chirwa, who used to run a grocery shop before Cyclone Freddy hit, is one of them.
“I’m thankful for what well-wishers are doing, but we can’t stay here forever. I plan to keep running my grocery store in Blantyre, but with the disaster, things will not be easy, I’ve lost a lot. However, I still have hope for the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Malawians are showing solidarity by providing assistance to those who have been severely affected by the disaster.
Currently, there are 577 evacuation camps spread across the country, providing shelter for the displaced population.
Despite the challenges, survivors of Cyclone Freddy are determined to rebuild their lives and move forward.