Flood Response

How UNICEF is helping children affected by floods in Malawi

Displaced children at Bangula Camp in Nsanje District
UNICEF Malawi/2019/Amos Gumulira


The Government of Malawi has launched a three-month response plan, and US $45 million appeal, targeting 162,240 households, including over 85,000 displaced people in various sites.

UNICEF continues to support interventions in WASH, health, nutrition, education and child protection to meet the needs of the affected population.

  • In Chikwawa District, 14,000 people have been reached with access to portable toilets provided by UNICEF.
  • UNICEF is supporting screening of children for malnutrition at evacuation sites. So far, 5,346 children under the age of five have been screened. Of these, 343 cases of severe or moderate acute malnutrition have been registered, with 281 referred for treatment.
  • UNICEF has provided 41 tents, 70 recreation kits and 122 school in a box kits to schools
  • To meet the urgent humanitarian needs, UNICEF is requesting US$8,265,000, of which 68 percent remains unfunded. Without this, UNICEF will not be able to meet the needs of affected women and children.
Beatrice Harold and her baby who was born 2 days after the floods
UNICEF Malawi/2019/Rebecca Phwitiko
23-year-old Beatrice Harold gave birth 2 days after floods destroyed her house in Chikwawa. She worries about her daughter spending her first few weeks in a congested camp away from home.

Situation Overview

In early March, a severe weather system hit Malawi with heavy rain accompanied by strong windstorms. This moved to Mozambique, where it intensified into Cyclone Idai, and then hit Malawi a second time. The heavy and persistent rains caused severe flooding across districts in southern Malawi. A total of 868,900 people has been affected, including more than 86,980 displaced, with 60 deaths and 672 injuries recorded according to the Government. In total, fifteen districts and two cities have been impacted.

The Government of Malawi has launched a three-month response plan, and US $45 million appeal, targeting 162,240 households, including over 85,000 displaced people in various sites. This requested assistance is for immediate lifesaving aid and to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases and malaria.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

UNICEF has provided WASH supplies to nine affected districts through a partnership with United Purpose, reaching around 20,000 people. Supplies include portable toilets, soap and water treatment chemicals. Information on cholera prevention has also been distributed. UNICEF has assisted with the expansion of existing reticulated waterpoints, reaching more than 4,000 people in Nsanje. More people are being reached with chlorination products at the household level.

In Chikwawa and Nsanje, 14,000 people have been reached with access to portable toilets, provided by UNICEF. Hygiene promotion and awareness in the nine districts is also underway, including the distribution of posters and fliers.


UNICEF is supporting the delivery of supplies for treatment of common infectious diseases including cholera, malaria and lung disease in eight districts with the highest number of affected people. Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) have started regularly visiting the camps. More supplies have been ordered including acute watery diarrhoea kits, emergency health kits, cholera beds, and supplies for malaria and HIV and reproductive health. UNICEF is supporting the distribution of mosquito nets to evacuation camps.  Furthermore, UNICEF is supporting two mobile clinics per district, which are providing services including immunization, anti- and pre-natal care, reproductive health, screening for malnutrition, and health promotion in the affected districts.  So far, the mobile clinics have reached ten camps in Chikwawa, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe and Zomba.

Surveillance has been strengthened across the affected districts with tracking of cholera, malaria, measles and polio well underway. So far, no outbreak of these diseases has been reported.


UNICEF is supporting mass screening for malnutrition across most of the prioritized districts, including Chikwawa, Machinga Mangochi, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe and Zomba. From the screening data received so far, a total of 5,346 children under the age of five have been screened (2,339 male and 3,124 female). Out of these, 62 cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 281 cases of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) have been registered.

This brings the total number of cases of malnourished children registered in flood-affected areas to 343. From this total, 281 children have been referred for treatment (118 male and 165 female). Some of these children were already malnourished before the floods. As the food security situation continues to deteriorate, it is likely the number of cases will increase.


UNICEF has trained 65 volunteer teachers, who have been deployed to Chikwawa, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe and Zomba districts. They are providing logistical support to schools and camps to ensure that classes resume as soon as possible. They are also providing counselling, psychosocial support and care for affected learners.

Tents (48) have been deployed to the most affected districts to provide safe learning spaces for affected children, whose classrooms have either been damaged or occupied by displaced people. Additionally, 143 school in a box kits, 80 recreational kits and 130 blackboards have been dispatched to ensure learning resumes quickly. ECD kits are also being provided for children under 5 who are in camps. Currently, 41 tents, 70 recreation kits and 122 school in a box kits have reached schools, with poor road accessibility delaying the remaining supplies.

Child Protection

The precarious nature of evacuation sites (including cramped conditions and lack of lighting) has increased the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation, especially for adolescent girls. Stress and trauma heightens tensions and the risk of violence. Loss or destruction of legal documents also puts vulnerable groups at risk. While there are not yet any official reports of separated or unaccompanied minors, there is a high demand for psychosocial support.

To date, community-based child care centres (CBCCs) and “children’s corners” have been established in at least 21 sites. Children’s corner kits have been distributed to 34 sites. Approximately 600 child protection case management booklets have been distributed to social welfare staff for identification, assessment, planning and referral of cases.


To meet the urgent humanitarian needs of children and families, UNICEF is requesting US $8.265 million. So far UNICEF has received a total of US$2,665,448 for response in the flood affected districts, leaving a gap of $5.6 million.  Additional funding is required to adequately respond to the needs of women and children. Without urgent funding, UNICEF will be unable to adequately respond to the emergency.

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