On 7th March 2023, Malawi was hit by Tropical Cyclone Freddy, began in February. Freddy made landfall in Madagascar on February 21st, before moving further westwards to Mozambique and Malawi. Dumping, an equivalent of six months of rainfall in less than a week on Malawi, Freddy has led to devastating floods, and mudslides with more than 438 deaths, 918 injured and 282 people missing as of 17 March, as per the Department of Disaster Management Affairs. Nearly 345,200 people are currently displaced and sheltering in over 500 camps as government led relief efforts continue in various districts in the country’s southern region, including Blantyre, the country’s financial hub.
BirdLife partner WESM has been adversely affected by Freddy, losing 11 wildlife patrons, with three still unaccounted for. WESM is still gathering more information as the search and rescue efforts continue. Staff have also lost relatives with Wilson Mkungunduza, a WESM staff member who lost four of his close relatives with others missing, after an entire village was swept away. Further, his house was rendered unsafe for habitation following developing serious cracks.
“These patrons were the bread winners in their homes, and WESM’s hands and feet in the schools and communities we work, we need to ensure the good work they contributed continues”, said Tiwonge Gawa WESM National Chair.
In addition to disrupting WESM operations, Freddy has led to the deterioration of the environmental situation, with community forests and woodlots cleared to supply firewood to the camps for the displaced. WESM is monitoring the situation to further ascertain the impact of these actions on recently planted trees and biodiversity at large. WESM is also working with partners to expand the conversation on conservation actions of Soche Mountain Forest Reserve, an encroached Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) where landslides occurred.
Following this devastation, there is need for urgent support to reach the affected.
WESM is working to support the affected staff, put place safeguards to protect the environment amidst the disaster and develop an analysis of the effects of the cyclone on biodiversity to inform conservation and restoration efforts.
You can help by contributing to WESM’s Appeal Here