Malawi Floods Worsen the Plight of Aida Marko

Malawi Floods Worsen the Plight of Aida Marko

Publication info

Innocent Mbvundula

Even before the devastating floods in Malawi, Aida Marko, a 39-year old woman from Chawanje village in Ntcheu District had more than enough to worry about. Losing her house and a promising crop to floods worsened her situation.

For starters, Aida is a single mother struggling to single handedly raise her seven children. She has no reliable means of livelihood and earns money by doing piece work in other people’s farms.

She has been separated from her husband, who left her with seven children. The first born son is in secondary school at Bwanje, roughly seven miles from her home; five children are in primary school and the last born child is still too young to attend school.

Before Aida’s husband left he built a house in which Aida and her children have been living. But heavy rains that resulted in flooding in many parts of Malawi, including Chawanje village, destroyed it.

Lucky for her and her children, they were not in the house at the time of its collapse. The house crashed right before their eyes. As the moisture saturated the walls of her grass thatched, mud smeared house, a well wisher advised her to vacate the house, noting that it was on the verge of collapse. She took heed of the advice because two days earlier the house of a 70-year-old widow had collapsed just some 250 yards away.

“We relocated to a boy’s quarter used by my oldest son, who is at a boarding school. As you can see, it’s a small house meant for one person. It has no bed room. This is the house that my children and I are living in,” she explained.

In villages, grown up boys move from their parents’ house to live in their own small houses close by, called Mphala. Such houses are generally not made for a big families. Though this tradition is fast fading away, this family has kept it and the small house became their refuge. The boy’s quarter that Aida and her children are occupying now is the house that Aida never used to enter. It is uncommon for a mother to enter a boy’s quarter, except in emergency situations, and this year's floods are the biggest emergency that Aida has encountered in many years.

“Now my worry is that we will have nowhere to stay when my son comes back for a holiday. He might let us live in this house but where will he stay?”

In addition to losing her home, the floods did not spare Aida's maize field either. The field, which has been her main source of food, is not a pretty sight to see – flattened ridges and exposed roots, with most of the crop washed away.

Her livelihood is now at stake because not only is her own field ruined but the farms where she used to work are in the same condition.

“During the farming season we do some piece work to earn money. But not many people are looking for farm laborers now because they have lost their crops to floods as well. The little money that we get from doing piece work in other people’s farms is what we use to buy food,” said Aida.

For the moment, Aida and her children are assured of food on the table. She received food to last for a month and a half from CARE Malawi. The food is part of flood disaster response coordinated by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).

The challenge that Aida now faces is to recover from the loss of her home and crops. While she has food on her table for the short term, she needs food for a longer period and a decent shelter for her and the children. CARE will soon start distributing planting materials such as sweet potato vines and cassava cuttings to flood affected families in Ntcheu District, which will allow Aida to begin planting again. 


Aida and three of her children stand in front of the boy's quarter where her family found refuge after her house collapsed. © Photo: Innocent Mbvundula/CARE