Asiya Ngalande’s story is one of bravery and resilience in the face of unimaginable loss. She acted quickly to save lives when floods swept through her village, despite experiencing a devastating loss.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy struck southern Malawi mid-March. The Cyclone entered Malawi through the district of Nsanje, bringing torrential rains and gusty winds. In just six days, southern Malawi was drenched with six months’ worth of rain. The resulting floods caused mudslides, swept away entire villages, damaged infrastructure, and caused severe injury and loss of lives.
Asiya lived with her family in Nkhulambe village, Nsanje District, until Cyclone Freddy struck with heavy rains. She noticed something unusual with this rainstorm: the amount of water flowing was more than normal. She woke up her family and prepared them to find safety.
“I woke up and checked outside; what I saw was a river flowing. I started waking people up, telling them to evacuate their homes because it was not safe. They heard me, and together we started to wake up other families, telling them we needed to escape.”
She was able to help her parents and two of her children escape the floods, but sadly, four of her children were swept away by the flood along with their home and all their belongings.
“During the rains, I sent some of the children to my grandmother’s house. Because her roof was covered with iron sheets, and mine were grass thatched. Whilst the children were at my grandmother’s house…water pushed through the door, and the house collapsed on them. When the house collapsed, all four children, that were in the house were washed away.”
Asiya and her surviving family members found temporary shelter at a displaced people’s camp where they are being supported by ActionAid in Kenya. However, the family remains traumatized by the disaster. Asiya said:
“We are scared of the rains. We get scared every time it starts raining, and we wonder, is it not enough? Hasn’t it taken enough lives already?“
Asiya’s story of resilience and strength shows the stark and heartbreaking impacts of climate change.
Sadly, she’s one of many on the frontline of a climate crisis that they have done little to nothing to cause. Through lived experiences, people like Asiya have learned just how real climate change is and how essential it is for them to be prepared for unexpected disasters.
Since late 2022, with increased weather disasters in the regions, ActionAid in Malawi has supported local communities in Nsanje and Phalombe districts to build resilience and strengthen disaster preparedness against cyclones and other natural disasters.
Our long-term partnership with local women-led organizations in southern Malawi enabled us to prepare our emergency response even before the disaster struck. Ahead of the cyclone, ActionAid issued information alerts and helped evacuate people to shelters. ActionAid is supporting the survivors of Cyclone Freddy with emergency aid such as food, blankets, tents, and masks. Women leaders, trained through ActionAid’s support, who would have traditionally been excluded from decision-making structures, are now leading the response to this disaster.
Thanks to our supporters, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that people like Asiya and her family receive the support they need to rebuild their lives.