Rebuilding your life after disaster strikes

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Katherine Chiphwanya holds a bag of maize flour she received in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai through Foodgrains Bank member Presbyterian World Service & Development, with funding from the Humanitarian Coalition. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

Foodgrains Bank members provide emergency food to families affected by cyclone Idai in Malawi

Katherine Chiphwanya watched as water seeped into her home. The walls became moist from the heavy rains, and eventually two of them collapsed before her eyes. She didn’t need to look outside to know what happened to her maize crop.

“The water was knee-high,” she says. “All my maize was washed away. I couldn’t harvest anything.”

This happened in March—a time of year that’s typically full of hope for the future, as Malawian farmers prepare to harvest their crops  to produce food and income for the coming months. Instead, this year’s harvest season was met with devastation from Cyclone Idai, which affected three million people across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Flooding and heavy rains washed away many crops in Malawi’s southern region. The crops that weren’t washed away were so waterlogged they hardly yielded anything.

Katherine held her 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, and they waited one week for the water to recede. Then she had to figure out how to rebuild their lives.

Harvest season was only a few weeks away when Cyclone Idai hit southern Malawi, destroying most crops due to flooding. (Photo: World Renew)

She began looking for piecework on other farms. The work was hard to come by, as even the larger farms were badly affected. She eventually found work tilling a neighbour’s one-acre field. “I do it alone,” she says of the work. “I’m the head of the household and responsible for everyone to eat. I don’t look at the amount of work to be done, I just do it.”

We’d only eat during the times I found piecework. If not, we went to bed hungry.

“It was really hard,” she says. “We’d only eat during the times I found piecework. If not, we went to bed hungry.”

Supporting families during their hardest times

Through Foodgrains Bank member Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D), with funding from the Humanitarian Coalition and the Government of Canada, Katherine and her family began receiving monthly food packages of maize flour, beans and cooking oil. They began eating twice a day, everyday.

“The kids are very happy,” she says. “And they are happy to eat the food. I don’t have to force them to eat it—It’s very tasty.” Katherine is one of 35,000 people in Malawi being supported by Foodgrains Bank members in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

In addition to providing 10,000 people like Katherine with emergency food, PWS&D and the Foodgrains Bank also provided seeds to help them in the longer-term.

Through a local partner of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Canada, the Foodgrains Bank provided 5,000 people with monthly food rations. Five hundred families also received seed.

Another project, through World Renew, provided 8,600 people with emergency food distributions for four months. Once the water receded and markets re-opened, an additional 11,400 people received cash distributions for two months to purchase food.

Moving forward

Six months after Cyclone Idai, families in southern Malawi are still recovering. It’s a long road ahead, but families like Katherine’s are working hard to move from relief to recovery.

Now I can focus on working more to rebuild our home and prepare for the next planting season.

“There were so many needs at the time, and I am grateful for this support that met our food needs,” says Katherine. “Now I can focus on working more to rebuild our home and prepare for the next planting season.”


You can help people experiencing hunger, like Katherine and her family, by making a donation today.

Thank you to the Government of Canada for expanding the response to Cyclone Idai by matching the first $2 million to the Humanitarian Coalition’s joint appeal.

—Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Coordinator