IFAW Relief Work for Animals Begins in Malawi

IFAW Relief Work for Animals Begins in Malawi
Monday, 23 February, 2015
Nsanje District, Malawi

Week one, and relief efforts to save thousands of animals in flood ravaged Malawi, Southern Africa, have kicked off successfully with nearly 3,500 animals vaccinated to protect them from disease. In the coming weeks the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) led Disaster Response Team intends to vaccinate 10,000 livestock for diseases commonly caused by flooding; a rabies vaccination for dogs and cats is being conducted in affected villages.

In January, cyclonic rains caused the worst floods in memory in Malawi displacing over 300,000 people, many of who are now entirely dependent on aid and are living in evacuation camps established by international humanitarian agencies, while as many as one-million animals, including cattle, small ruminants and companion animals were swept to their deaths by flash flooding.

Last week an IFAW team of veterinarians and para veterinarians began an urgent campaign to vaccinate livestock and other animals in the worst flooded areas of Makangha and Nychilenda. Ongoing wet conditions are causing outbreaks of disease in remaining herds, and local communities need help to ensure their animals remain healthy in the months it is expected to take for the flood waters to subside.

“Most of these people are subsistence farmers who have lost everything, their homes, their crops and their livestock. Ensuring that their remaining livestock stay healthy and strong is absolutely crucial to ensuring people can rebuild their lives once the floodwaters recede,” said Shannon Walajtys, Animal Rescue-Disasters Manager for IFAW.

 “Despite dire conditions, the IFAW vaccination campaign has started well – with over 3,200 cattle vaccinated in the first three days; and the initial rabies vaccination campaign treating over 60 companion animals on its first day. We’re satisfied and local communities are happy for the help we have been able to offer,” said Walajtys.

IFAW has launched the relief effort in response to a request by Malawian authorities which asked for urgent action to help save surviving animals. IFAW visited some communities that have been isolated by flood waters since the beginning of January, and who are dependent on helicopter food drops for human sustenance, while their few remaining animals forage for whatever browse remains.

“The situation is heartbreaking,” said Christina Pretorius, IFAW Southern Africa Communication Officer. “We have met dozens of people in camps and on ‘islands’ who have lost absolutely everything. For these small subsistence farmers their cattle are their capital. The sale of one animal will pay school fees for children, and put food on the table for months. These people now say they are destitute and most have no idea how they will be able to put their lives back together again.

“We have met dozens of people in the camps who are describing scenes of the most awful horror. One man described how the floods arrived in the middle of the night, and he was forced to push his children into trees to keep them from the water. He then paddled a two hour journey either way in his dugout canoe to ferry them and other community members to safety. In all he saved 80 people.

“Another man carried his elderly mother on his back in chest high water to a local school. They piled desks four high and then perched on top for three days before help arrived. Yet another described how he paddled through a maelstrom of struggling, drowning livestock to get his family to safety. It really is a tragedy,” she said.

The IFAW Disaster Relief Team intends vaccinating 10,000 livestock for diseases common in livestock affected by flooding; as well as providing feed for animals suffering from lack of food availability. A rabies vaccination campaign will be conducted for dogs at evacuation centres.

Walajtys said flooding and lack of food security had already led to outbreaks of disease in some livestock. In addition, thousands of dogs which escaped the flood waters were now roaming in the vicinity of evacuation centres with concerns building for a rabies outbreak.

IFAW has been active in Malawi at Liwonde National Park since 2011, through its Liwonde National Park Conservation Programme, in which it partners with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. In 2013 IFAW support helped build the Chikolongo Community Fish Farm which provides a livelihood opportunity for local people and secure access to safe drinking water.

IFAW also partners with the ngo HELP Malawi and this year will roll out IFAW’s Animal Action Education Programmes to schools close to Liwonde, intended to significantly improve school success rates in local communities who live daily with wildlife.

In just over five years, IFAW has rescued and treated domestic and wild animals in more than 30 of the world’s worst disasters including flood response work in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, in India after Cyclone Phailin and in the deadly aftermath of monsoons in Pakistan.


About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy