On Tuesday, 14 March 2023, the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) of Malawi reported that Cyclone Freddy had its centre (eye) over the southern district of Malawi. These districts included Mulanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Blantyre, Neno, Mwanza, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu and Zomba. These are the same areas that are still recovering from tropical storm Ana in 2022, and tropical cyclone Idai in 2019. In the cities of Blantyre, Chiradzulu, and Phalombe, heavy rains triggered floods and mudslides, destroying houses, and killing several people. Cumulatively, Freddy has so far displaced 362,928 people with 918 injured and 282 reported missing. Many of the affected are being sheltered in schools and churches, and 505 camps have been established to accommodate the displaced.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy is a record-breaking storm as it set a world record for being the longest-lasting tropical cyclone causing devastating damage to public infrastructure, and the loss of so many lives. The cyclone entered Southern Africa through the province of Inhambane, in Mozambique, and left through the province of Zambezia, also in Mozambique. It has caused the death of at least 450 people in Malawi and over a 100 in Mozambique, where the death toll is expected to rise substantially as a lot of people are still reported missing.
Reports from Mozambique’s disaster institute confirmed that about 1,900 homes had been destroyed in the coastal Zambezia province. Tens of thousands of people are still holed up in storm shelters and accommodation centres. Malawi, however, has been the hardest hit country by this latest cyclone, and the Government of Malawi has declared a state of emergency, appealing to all stakeholders to generously take responsibility and respond in whatever way possible.
Likewise, the Jesuit Province of Southern Africa, through the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development, has responded by mobilizing teams and resources to respond to this disaster. The proportion of loss and damage caused by this cyclone is overwhelming as it has triggered a new wave of humanitarian crises, adding on to the problems that most parts of southern Malawi have been facing since Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Cyclone Idai. Scores of pictures and videos on social media have shown not only how the rural parts of southern Malawi were damaged, but also how some parts of the city of Blantyre (the second largest city in Malawi) were heavily hit.
In his statement on the Ecological Crisis, Pope John Paul II said that “today the ecological crisis has assumed such proportions as to be the responsibility of everyone… (nº 15).” (The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility). The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in Southern Africa, serving in both Malawi and Mozambique, is terribly conscious of this responsibility which we have for our world, for the whole of creation, which we must love, cherish, and protect. There is much that we can do to accompany and support and to show our solidarity with the peoples of Malawi and Mozambique. Given the severity of the damages and loss of livelihoods reported, this is an enormous task; taken together they seem overwhelming. But “all things are possible” to those who hope in God (Mk 10:27). Dr Chakwera, the President of the Republic of Malawi said, “We are using hope as our currency to encourage those that have survived, telling them that we will not leave them alone because we are trusting in you, as our international neighbours, to come through so Malawians can continue with that hope.”
Our hope is in Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we see during these Lenten days with the eyes of his Passion. In these difficult and devastating times to both the peoples of Malawi and Mozambique, may our hope in Christ give us the courage to reach out in prayer, almsgiving, and accompaniment for those who have lost absolutely everything but hope.
These days and weeks are most critical, and through our Disaster Response Team, led by the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development, we shall continue to work around the clock to support those in need in both Malawi and Mozambique, and will reach out to many of those who have been affected. We ask for your prayers, and appeal for any support towards the victims of this dreadful tropical cyclone. If you are able to support financially, please consider making a donation – of whatever size – to one of the bank accounts. (Please email a proof of payment to our Treasurer, Fr Isaac-el J. Fernandes, S.J. at email@example.com, so that your donation can be receipted and confirmed.)
Yours in the Lord,
Fr Leonard Chiti, S.J.
For further information, please contact:
Brother Ngonidzashe Edward, S.J. (Executive Director: Jesuit Centre for Ecology & Development)
Contact Tel: +265 992 242 334 / +265 884 347 221
Chimwemwe Sakunda Ndhlovu
(CADECOM / Caritas Malawi National Coordinator)
Contact Tel: +265 999 303 710