'We climbed an anthill to escape the Cyclone'

Disaster response and recoveryMalawi

Hunger had never been an issue for 85-year-old grandfather Fabiano and his family. Living near the banks of a river in Chikwawa, Malawi, they cultivated crops such as maize and beans on their two and half acres of land. Then Cyclone Idai hit – bringing heavy rains, strong winds and flooding.

On the night of 9 March 2019, Fabiano noticed water starting to enter his house. ‘I called to my wife and we tried to figure out what was happening,’ he says. ‘We could see the roof of our house being blown off.

‘Just outside our house there was an anthill and we decided to run there as it was on a higher ground. 

‘My wife held onto me the whole night as we heard screams and shouts from other villagers, but we were not sure what was happening.’

Fortunately his two grandsons and their families had travelled away to another part of the country before the flooding hit. 

Finding dry land
As morning came, Fabiano and his wife shouted to a man who was paddling a canoe looking for people who needed rescuing. After reaching safer ground they came to a primary school where many others were seeking shelter in a makeshift camp.

It was an extremely traumatic ordeal for Fabiano and his wife. ‘All our things were destroyed and swept away by the raging waters. We survived with only the clothes on our backs. I felt so distressed and realised that death was very near,’ recalls Fabiano.

Together with our partner, Eagles, we have been able to distribute maize flour, beans, cooking oil and salt in the camp. Fabiano told our team he was ‘so happy to receive these items,’ as he had nothing of his own to eat.

Devastating impact
Cyclone Idai swept through Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as Malawi, killing at least 960 people, leaving behind a trail of destruction and around 3 million people in need of help.

Six weeks later, several thousand cases of cholera and malaria have been reported in Mozambique. There is a high risk of outbreaks of other waterborne diseases, as access to  safe water remains a significant challenge.

'My wife held onto me the whole night as we heard screams and shouts from other villagers.'

Fabiano

Tearfund is working with local partners across the three countries, to meet people’s most immediate needs. We are distributing food, cooking utensils, plastic sheets for shelter, chlorine tablets to treat water, along with seeds to replant crops destroyed by the winds.

Please consider donating today to help us reach many more vulnerable people.

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Please pray

  • Pray for Fabiano and people like him who have lost so much. Pray that they will receive the food and shelter they need, the support to help them rebuild their lives and healing from the trauma they experienced.
  • Pray for the cholera outbreak to be contained, and for safe water to be available to all.
  • Thank God for the efforts of our partners Eagles, CODESA, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and AG Care who have been working tirelessly to reach those most in need.
Andrew Horton

Andrew is Online News and Film Editor for Tearfund. This involves finding and writing up inspiring articles for the website, and capturing compelling stories on video.