Cyclone Disaster Relief
In May 2020, FDH Bank, the homegrown Malawian bank founded by prominent business leader Thomson Mpinganjira, provided MK3 million in disaster relief funding in support of victims of Cyclone Idai.
The investment will be used to establish Mother Group Community Savings Groups, improving the prospects and wellbeing of children throughout Malawi, whose schools were badly impacted by the disaster. Lorraine Lusinje, Public Relations Officer for FDH Bank, explained that bank funding would be distributed to 15 community groups in Mulanje, Thyolo, Zomba, Chiradzulu, and Phalombe, with the ultimate aim of promoting self-sustenance.
COVID-19 has affected economies all over the world. Arriving in Malawi in the wake of significant adverse weather events, the pandemic placed a particularly heavy burden on small-scale businesses throughout the country, with the pervasive daily hand-to-mouth lifestyle significantly disrupted by social distancing strategies implemented to stem transmission of COVID-19.
Ms Lusinje explained that, in recognition of this issue, FDH Ban had come to the rescue of small-scale business operations, providing Mother Group Community Saving facilities with a boost of capital. Committed to continuous growth, FDH Bank recognises that Cyclone Idai reversed gains achieved in Malawi, making recovery interventions necessary.
The Impact of Cyclone Idai
Touching down in Beira City, Mozambique on the 14th March 2019 when it was classified as a Category 2 storm, Cyclone Idai’s strong winds and heavy rains triggered flash flooding, causing hundreds of deaths and mass destruction to property and crops.
Less than six weeks later, Cyclone Idai was followed by Cyclone Kenneth, dealing a heavy blow to already struggling communities. The two storms caused catastrophic flooding that affected almost 2.2 million people across Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, causing an unprecedented level of damage.
According to United Nations statistics, Cyclone Idai alone reaped more than $773 million in damage to crops, buildings, and infrastructure, damaging and destroying over 100,000 homes. Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless and displaced as a result of the cyclones, devastating communities, with many people losing friends and family.
In the aftermath of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, cases of cholera, diarrhoea, malaria and respiratory infections were rife due to poor living conditions. In many affected regions, food shortages continue today, with crop pests, draught, and insecurity contributing to heightened need.
Speaking on behalf of FDH Bank, Ms Lusinje explained that the homegrown Malawian financial institution had opted to work with Mother Groups since members were well placed to join forces with schools and other bodies, implementing additional child protection measures such as tracking learner absenteeism, reaching out to vulnerable learners and orphans, and supporting parents in addressing problems, providing learners with not just basic school materials, but also vital emotional support through counselling and guidance.
Ms Lusinje pointed out that investing in cost-effective, child-centred innovative interventions is an effective way of bestowing a bright future to disadvantaged youths of today. She emphasised the role of FDH Bank in building resilience in affected communities to help them recover, as well as boosting local small scale businesses and motivating Mother Groups to offer basic support and monitoring visits, protecting vulnerable children – particularly girls – confined to their homes during the COVID-19 partial lockdown.
Deputy Director of the Department of School Health and Nutrition, Virginia Kachigunda, received FDH Bank’s pledge on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. She welcomed the bank’s kind gesture, pointing out that students were still suffering the cumulative effect of extreme weather events, which over the years have increased in scope, magnitude, and frequency, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the hardship.
Ms Kachigunda said that 455 early childhood centres together with 154 primary school blocks had been damaged by Cyclone Idai. She noted that, left unchecked, vulnerable students, particularly girls and those with disabilities, were exposed to violence and sexual abuse. Ms Kachigunda invited well-wishers to join with FDH Bank, supporting recovery activities and resilience building, underlining the importance of fixing damaged schools and restoring teaching and learning materials, as well as providing psycho-social support for students, families and teachers impacted by Cyclone Idai and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic.