As Cyclone Freddy tore through Malawi, its heavy rains and fierce winds left a trail of destruction in its wake. Among the hardest hit were older people, who now find themselves grappling with the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones. With no choice but to seek refuge in overcrowded camps, they face an uncertain future and rely heavily on government and aid agencies for support.
Prisca’s recurring nightmare
“This is the fourth time my home has been destroyed.”
Prisca Kumbikani, 65, is all too familiar with the destruction caused by cyclones, having experienced it four times, including this year’s Cyclone Freddy. The storm claimed her home, as well as maize and cassava crops. Prisca and her five-year-old granddaughter, whom she cares for, now live in the Manja Primary School camp. Faced with the loss of her farming and brick-making income, Prisca fears she will no longer be able to send her granddaughter to school.
Esme’s heart-breaking loss
Esme’s six-year-old grandson is now missing and feared dead
Esme, a 68-year-old woman, lost her home as the cyclone’s torrential rains washed it away. She and her family, including her daughter and two grandchildren, barely managed to escape the deluge. Tragically, Esme’s six-year-old grandson is now missing and feared dead. Living in difficult conditions in an overcrowded camp, Esme is no longer able to earn a living by washing clothes, and her family struggles to access food and clean water.
Malita’s struggle to feed her family
“My entire house and my maize and cassava crops were swept away.”
Sixty-year-old Malita found herself in a similar predicament when she returned from shopping for food to find her village destroyed and her home washed away. The storm also decimated her crops, which she relied on for sustenance and income. Malita and her three orphaned grandsons sought shelter at the Manje Primary School camp, but she now faces the daunting task of feeding her family without her crops or a means to earn money.
“As head of the family, my main concern is being unable to take care of my family now that I have lost my source of income.”
Dickson’s painful reality
“I’m afraid I will no longer be able to send my granddaughter to school as I have no means to earn a living.”
Dickson, a 70-year-old man, lost everything when Cyclone Freddy swept away his home and the 11 houses he rented out. During the storm, he suffered a severe leg injury, which now requires a walking stick for mobility. His son and daughter-in-law were also gravely injured and are currently hospitalised. As the family’s breadwinner, Dickson is burdened with the responsibility of caring for his family without a source of income.
A call for support
As the nation grapples with the devastation caused by Cyclone Freddy, the death toll continues to rise, with recent estimates suggesting it has surpassed 500, and over 500 people are missing. Older people are often among the worst affected but also the last to be helped in such disasters.
HelpAge partner MANEPO is providing cash, food, blankets, mats, buckets, soap, aqua tabs, cups and plates for older people but more support is urgently needed.
HelpAge is also responding in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In Mozambique, Cyclone Freddy was preceded by floods in January which affected 300,000 people. Both disasters have culminated in a devastating humanitarian situation and to date, 11,000 people have been affected by cholera across the country. HelpAge is providing food and hygiene kits to older people. In Zimbabwe, several districts were already experiencing food shortages and now, flooded crop fields have compounded the problem. HelpAge is providing cash, buckets, soap and towels to older people and their families.
Photography and testimonies provided by Patricia Mmame, MANEPO