In March 2019,
Cyclone Idai ravaged several Southern African countries including Malawi. With
extreme rainfall, floods and mudslides, many of the region’s poorest
populations were tragically hit. In Neno, thousands of households were affected
with loss to lives, crops, livestock's and property. Since 2007, Partners In
Health (PIH) through the Program on Social and Economic Rights (POSER) has
employed an all-inclusive approach in its mission of “Providing a preferential
option for the poor in health care”. Therefore, in addition to working towards
high-quality clinical services, social supports like food packages for
nutritional supplements, transport reimbursements to ease access to care,
in-ward support and housing, form part of the clinical care compendium that
patients receive. Over the years, PIH has noted that climate change, such as
Cyclone Idai is becoming a major challenge in rural Malawi. Its devastating
effects are putting vulnerable clients at increased risk of illness and loss of
economic possibility. Recognizing the impact of natural disasters on people’s
health, PIH has been driven to respond to such emergencies.
PIH’s response to Cyclone Idai was three-tiered. First, medical teams were put
on high alert, and health facilities stocked to address emergencies coming from
affected areas. Second, in collaboration with the District Council and the
Department of Social Welfare, PIH moved quickly to assess the situation on the
ground, mobilize resources and provide emergency assistance to affected homes
in the form of 50kg bags of maize for food, plastic papers for roofing
temporary shelters, water buckets, beans, cooking oil, blankets and cash.
Third, a list of the hardest hit households was developed, and the most
vulnerable who could not rebuild without external support were identified.
Overall, 7,500 households and 15,100 individuals benefitted from the response
and 20 households were rebuilt.
is a growing multi-sectoral issue affecting some of the most critical
determinants of health and well-being of people and communities we serve. Its
effects cannot be ignored and have vast implications on social support
programming as well as overall health planning and financing. Therefore, health
and welfare organizations should adapt to these changes, and build appropriate
collaborative response mechanism.