The Church of Jesus Christ Provides Housing and Support to Flood Victims in Malawi

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Written by Elder George Humbert

In March 2023, the people of Malawi braced themselves as Cyclone Freddy — the world’s longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever recorded – made its way to the southern region of the country. The forecast called for rainfall accumulations reaching 400mm to 500mm (16 to 20 inches) over three days. Flooding, multiple mudslides, and mass debris swept away villages, causing damage to property, homes and crops, injuries, and death to people and livestock. Public infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, and main roads were damaged in Blantyre and the surrounding communities of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Phalombe and Zomba.

The natural disaster caused over 80,000 households to be displaced in southern Malawi and caused at least 1,000 deaths.

In the wake of this devastating cyclone, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints immediately went to work to provide needed supplies of tents, blankets, sleeping mats, mobile clinic services, mobile toilets, water treatment chemicals, maize, corn soya blend and cooking oil. In collaboration with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), supplies were delivered to assist and provide relief.

After the intensity of the storm faded, President Chinomwe, a regional leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Blantyre Malawi District opened four meetinghouses to provide temporary shelter to community members who had lost their homes. He said that they did not distinguish between members and friends of the Church but accepted all in need until they reached capacity.

Church buildings in Zingwangwa, Ndirande, Blantyre, and Iwonde opened their doors to provide shelter to over 230 people who fell prey to the devastation. For three days, members of the church provided food for those sheltered in the meetinghouses and volunteered by preparing and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in each of the four meetinghouses until humanitarian help arrived.

Once food donations arrived, flood victims continued to take shelter in the Church’s meetinghouses until other suitable housing arrangements could be found. Church leaders in the area worked every day to assist families in identifying opportunities for more permanent shelter. Often, extended family members in other communities were willing to help, so the church members rallied around these displaced families and helped them with supplies and transportation to travel to the distant communities.

During the weeks that followed, while housing the displaced families, the churches managed to continue Sunday meetings as usual. Each Sunday, local branch leaders would help displaced families move their personal belongings into a single classroom for a couple of hours, allowing the remainder of the classrooms to be used for Sunday classes.

Flood victims who were interested were able to attend sacrament meetings and other classes while they were housed in the church buildings.

The Church has received extensive recognition from local government leaders and media for its’ humanitarian work during the crises. Civic leaders were amazed at the support the Church provided and how willing the local members and leaders were to help.

“Many could not believe that the church would open its doors to those not of our faith,” said President Chinomwe. He went on to say that the storm created an “opportunity to serve others and bless members”.

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