NSANJE, MALAWI — Hundreds of Mozambican flood survivors who fled to evacuation camps in Malawi in early March after Cyclone Idai , say they are not ready to return home unless they are relocated to higher ground. They say returning to their flood prone areas would put them at risk should another flood occur. In the meantime, they are appealing to Malawi’s government to reconsider its decision to close down evacuation camps in May. But government authorities in Malawi say their resources are limited.
Rute Joseph and her four children fled Cyclone Idai flooding that damaged her house and washed away her property in Zambezia province in Mozambique.
Having stayed at Bangula evacuation camp for nearly two months, Rute Joseph, a single mother, from Murombola village, said returning is not what she wants.
She said although they have received reports that water has now subsidized [in their area], the problem is that the area experiences flooding almost every year, therefore she is not willing to return home.
Several other of the 1,000 Mozambican flood survivors at this camp like Jose Mateyu said they will return home only if government will move them to higher ground.
He said life at the camp is problematic. They survive on small food donation from organizations. But, still, they don’t have plans to return home because they don’t have anything to start with back home to rebuild their lives.
However, Malawi government authorities say they don’t have enough resources to continue keeping people in camps.
Michael Chimbalanga, is the Commissioner for Nsanje District in southern Malawi.
“You know that as government when were are planning, we look at the proportion that we have in the district, and the coming of these Mozambicans it means they strained our budget which was very small and the coming of these people it means we are constrained and the resources are now going to large number of people,” he said.
The U.N. refugee agency or UNHCR is currently distributing tents, sleeping mats, blankets and other start up items to Cyclone Idai victims including Mozambicans.
Valentin Tapsoba is the Regional Director at UNHCR in Southern Africa.
“As a U.N. refugee protection agency, we cannot leave them aside. But we are not only assisting the Mozambicans. We are assisting the Mozambicans and the people from Malawi. This, I want to be clear that we are not discriminating,” said Tapsoba.
In March, Cyclone Idai killed over 1,000 people and damaged many houses across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The arrival of a second storm in Mozambique, Cyclone Kenneth, has reinforced Joseph and Mateyu’s fears of returning home.