Relief follows the rains, helping people and animals in Malawi

IFAW’s Disaster Response Team Leader we will join veterinarians Dr Julius Chulu and Dr Danny Chinombo and para to begin a vigorous vaccination campaign for farm animalsLanding in Blantyre, Malawi this past weekend was extraordinary.

Dipping in low to Chileka Airport, the Boeing flew over kilometres of flourishing maize crops, each smallish patch planted in a different direction – a good way tell who’s crops belong to whom when there are few fences to separate the little fields.

At the bottom of the steps, a bibbed official stood with a handwritten sign reading “Scottish Parliamentarians”; behind me in the immigration queue a woman lugging a hefty backpack commented about meeting a “support crew”; and in the wait for luggage, a Dutch guy called his “ma” to report in and tell her he was going straight down to the “camps”; luggage came off the plane festooned in stickers showing they were from some aid agency of another.

That was the first sign that all was not well in Malawi.

On the way into town there was more maize, chimanga in the local Chichewa language. It is grown everywhere on sidewalks, in gardens in place of lawns, in the small patches between shacks, even on roofs and growing well over three metres high. When the rains are good the harvest is good and everyone eats; when the rains are poor, people go hungry.

It looks much as though the people of Blantyre will not go hungry this year, but in the south of the country the nourishing rains came in bad humour last month. Tropical Cyclones Chedza and Bansi, whirled in from across the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, bringing the worst flooding in years to Mozambique and Malawi.

According to this morning’s Malawi Sunday Times a meeting of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDac) team on February 4th reported 1.15-million Malawians have been affected by the flood, with 336,000 of them being displaced and a total of 276 dead, or missing and presumed dead.

These are subsistence farmers who have literally lost everything; family members, their homes, their crops, their farm animals and even their pets.

And that is why IFAW is here.

We were requested by the Malawian Government to help in saving farm animals in one of the worst affected areas. At a time when the humanitarian crisis was uppermost in people’s mind, it became obvious there was an animal crisis that would also impact the community. Farm animals are essential to the well-being of the subsistence farmers in the south of Malawi.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) enabled an initial assessment of the situation and tomorrow, with Pete Howson, IFAW’s Disaster Response Team Leader we will join veterinarians Dr Julius Chulu and Dr Danny Chinombo and para vets in the District of Nsanje, to begin a vigorous vaccination campaign for those farm animals that escaped the floods to ensure that disease and malnutrition of cattle, goats and other animals don’t become a new disaster for the community.

Dr Chulu is Malawi’s Chief Animal Health Officer, and the OIE National Animal Welfare Focal Point for Malawi; Dr Chinombo is a member of the Malawi Veterinary Association.

Earlier this month, district officials assessed that 91,000 animals including, cattle, pigs and goats had been swept away in what has been described as the worst flooding in years, and the figure might be as high as one million.

Tomorrow, when we get down to Nsanje, we’ll be briefed on the latest figures.

They are not expected to be pretty.

At the same time thousands of people who were airlifted or rescued by boats are currently being cared for in tented camps provided by human aid organisations and governments around the world (including the Scottish, hence their arrival in Malawi).

The human crisis is truly heart-breaking.

But, when the water recedes, people will be able to leave the evacuation camps to return home and begin to rebuild their lives. When they do there will be no chimanga left in the fields, so it is crucial they can at least return to healthy, well-nourished farm animals that will give them a start on the road to recovery.

Thank you to IFAW’s supporters to helping get the people of Malawi back on their feet, and to bringing health and care to the animals affected by this disaster.


Your donation in support of our efforts allows work like this to continue, thank you.

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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