Malawi has been ravaged by Cyclone Freddy (now classified as a tropical storm), which has unleashed six months' worth of rainfall on the small East African country in just six days, causing extensive damage of which authorities are yet to determine the full extent.
“We had been trying to build back from Cyclone Idai in 2019, and then the pandemic, now Freddy," Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has said. "We are in a perpetual cycle of trying to pull ourselves up and getting knocked back down."
"We need everyone’s help and support for this tragedy to be mitigated," he continued. "It’s not just here and there, we are at the receiving end of the worst of the climate change.”
So far more than 400 people have died across Malawi from the impact of the tropical storm and about 500,000 people have been displaced by the heavy rains, flash floods, and mudslides brought on by Cyclone Freddy. It is expected that these numbers will continue to climb as rescue efforts continue.
Roads have been cut off, power infrastructure has been decimated, and health care facilities across the country have been damaged by the cyclone, which experts say is the longest-lasting tropical storm on record.
Mass funerals have been held in Malawi for the hundreds of people who died in floods and landslides after the powerful tropical cyclone Freddy tore through southern Africa ⤵️— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 16, 2023
“The damage is across 13 districts, almost half the country, and it is not just the numbers of our people who have lost their lives, but the damage and devastation,” President Chakwera told the Guardian, appealing to the international community to come to Malawi’s aid.
Here are some ways that you can support Malawi and Malawians during this time of immense difficulty.
1. Donate to Global Relief Organizations
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
According to UNICEF, an estimated 4.8 million children in Malawi are in need of humanitarian assistance to meet their nutritional needs. By the end of March, UNICEF estimates that 250,000 children under the age of five will be malnourished without urgent intervention.
The country was already battling with a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,600 people, and there are fears the impact of the tropical storm Freddy could further worsen this issue. Malnourished children are 11 times more likely to die from cholera.
UNICEF is currently mobilizing essential basic supplies, ensuring access to food and safe water; hygiene promotion and supplies; tents, medical supplies, and emergency latrines; education, and other key services; and psychosocial support.
“Cyclone Freddy was a historic storm, but, unfortunately, thanks to climate change, we know it will not be the last record-breaking storm the region will likely face," says UNICEF Regional Director Mohamed M. Malick Fall. "Even as we build back from the impact of Freddy, we must do so with an eye toward building resiliency in the future."
World Food Programme (WFP)
In a statement, the WFP said cyclone Freddy hit Malawi just as the rainy season was ending and rivers and other water bodies were already at high levels, leading to severe flooding.
The floods have destroyed hundreds of acres of farmland and wiped out produce — just as farmers were about to harvest the only produce of the year. This makes an already difficult year, in which 3.8 million people in Malawi were already in need of food assistance, much more difficult.
WFP is currently distributing corn soya blend, a partially pre-cooked fortified food consumed as porridge to displaced Malawians, and providing trucks to the humanitarian community to transport supplies. It will also provide a helicopter to support the government's rescue efforts.
“We are ramping up as quickly as we can under the circumstances, but the true extent of the damage will only be revealed once assessments have been concluded," said Paul Turnbull, WFP’s Country Director in Malawi. "What is clear though is that the country will need significant support."
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Malawi has experienced five extreme weather events — including droughts and floods — in the last seven years alone.
Help Those Affected by Cyclone Freddy in Malawi Today!— IOM Malawi (@IOMMalawi) April 19, 2023
100% of your donations go to life-saving assistance on the ground.https://t.co/0vpS3izW5f
Red Cross (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)
Volunteers of the Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) have been on the ground to support search and rescue efforts and provide first aid and psychosocial support to those affected. MRCS is also helping to distribute non-food items to evacuation centers and hospitals.
“The destruction left behind by Tropical Storm Freddy, which has displaced large numbers, is a major concern, as we are also tackling a widespread cholera outbreak at the same time," says John Roche, Head of IFRC’s Delegation for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. "We need to respond fast and ensure people have access to clean and safe drinking water to ensure that cholera does not spread beyond control."
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is now working to raise 6 million francs to help MRCS “assist up to 160,000 people over five districts, who have been affected by the severe impacts of Tropical Storm Freddy.”
2. Donate to Yamba Malawi’s Relief Fund
In its programme areas in Malawi's southern region, which have been severely affected by Freddy, child-focused nonprofit Yamba Malawi is working with the government to deliver food and essential supplies to people in need, and developing a long-term recovery strategy.
3. Tell World Leaders to Act Against Climate Change
Climate change and global warming threaten our health, food systems, environment, and the mission to end extreme poverty. Extreme weather events have increased dramatically in the last couple of years and we know why — you guessed it, climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that human activity is the primary cause of this unravelling of our planet and that we're on a trajectory to devastating consequences, without urgent and widespread action.
Further, as is the case with Malawi, it is low-income countries — countries that have historically contributed the least to the causes of climate change — that are experiencing the worst effects of climate change.
#CycloneFreddy has hit #Malawi for the 2nd time. Lives are being lost as we speak. Africa is the least responsible for the climate crisis yet projects are being approved that will ensure the continuation of these disasters globally #Mapa#FaceTheClimateEmergency@GretaThunbergpic.twitter.com/qdfSzZKsRD— Ina-MariaShikongo (@IMariashikongo) March 16, 2023
We all have a part to play in advocating for our planet and calling on world leaders to prioritize climate financing and climate mitigation. You can join Global Citizens around the world in calling on world leaders to take urgent action to combat climate change and support those countries that are experiencing the worst of its impacts by taking action here.
4. Make Climate-Friendly Life Choices
We know that the biggest opportunities for taking action to combat the climate crisis lie with world and business leaders. Along with taking action and calling on world leaders to prioritize climate action and climate financing, however, we can also adopt climate-forward choices in our personal lives. From reducing and recycling our plastic waste, to adopting a plant-based diet, to reducing air travel, to cutting fast fashion out of your life, there is something for everyone.
If you're not sure where to start, we have a plethora of inspiration for you — from article guides, to our Global Citizen app-based challenges. Head to the Global Citizen app to find challenges that will help you learn more about climate change with Bill Nye; ditch fast fashion; become a one-person trash collection army; or become a plastic pollution warrior. The possibilities are endless and every little action matters.
5. Raise Awareness
If you are not able to donate at this time but you still want to help, you can share this article with your friends, family, and social media network. It could end up in front of someone who is able to donate, volunteer, or reshare this article.