Rising above the waters: providing much needed support to vulnerable women displaced by cyclone Ana in Malawi
Alinafe Everson, 38, woke up to the sound of rushing water on the early morning of January 24, 2022. Within seconds water flooded her home, which she shared with her husband and four children. The family managed to hurry to higher ground and found shelter in a crowded school block.
The conditions were difficult for the family as there was little food, poor sanitation and rising COVID-19 cases in the camp.
Strong winds and heavy rainfall caused by Tropical Storm Ana have disrupted the lives of thousands of women and their families. Over 190,000 people have been displaced and forced to settle in makeshift camps. Homes were destroyed and food and assets including clothes and crop fields were washed away. Sanitary products and health supplies are scarse and social support programmes, including social cash transfers have been disrupted.
Women and girls are the most vulnerable and at greatest risk of violence including sexual exploitation and abuse because of limited access to basic needs (food, shelter, clothing and water).
UN Women Malawi has been supporting the flood relief response. Access roads to reach people were challenging as a result of the flooding. In spite of this, UN Women was able to reach vulnerable women, such as lactating mothers, pregnant women, older women, women with disabilities and young women and reached about 10,000 members of households with buckets, loin cloths (chitenges) and soap.
Everson received non-food items such as a bucket and soap and a wrapper from UN Women.
“These items are timely and vital especially since the biggest need in the village right now is clean drinking water and good sanitation,” she said.
Crises impact women, girls, boys and men of all ages differently. As a result, their needs and interests differ, as do their resources, capacities and coping strategies. Women become more vulnerable as they can be exposed to gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. Understanding the distinct needs of women and girls, in addition to the distribution of non-food items, UN Women Malawi ensured that gender-based violence prevention messages were conveyed to affected communities in Chikwawa. Men at the camps were urged not to engage in gender-based violence including sexual exploitation and abuse, usually triggered during emergencies. Communities were also encouraged to report gender-based violence cases and were informed about available helplines and other services.