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Storm Ana: From Crisis to Resilient Healthcare in Malawi

Updated: May 3, 2023

Storm damage in Mulanje District (Image: Mulanje Mission Hospital)

Tropical Cyclone Ana struck southern Malawi on 24 January with devastating effect. As of 10 February, 221,127 households (more than 995,000 people) are reported to have been affected by the floods and storms induced by Tropical Storm Ana, with 32,935 households displaced and seeking temporary shelter in over 170 displacement sites. 46 deaths have been reported while 18 people are missing, and 158 people have sustained injuries of various degrees. (Malawi Government Department of Disaster Management Affairs)

Such emergencies demand a rapid response to deal with urgent needs. But, as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also reveal gaps in healthcare infrastructure. In reality, these gaps were already contributing to poor health and avoidable deaths before the latest crisis struck.

EMMS International emphasises improving services for the hardest-to-reach communities, supporting vulnerable women into healthcare careers and emergency healthcare. These are all vital components of building healthcare systems that are resilient to the growing impact of the climate crisis and are ready to respond in times of critical need.

Healthcare for the hardest to reach

On the left an image of a bridge into a green field with people walking over.  On the right the bridge is washed away with only a pillar remaining in a swelling brown river.
Mangani Bridge in Mulanje, before and after Storm Ana (Image: Mulanje Mission Hospital)

The Southern Region of Malawi can often become a flood plain for the Shire River and its tributaries. As a result, roads become impassable, and bridges are washed away in heavy seasonal rains, let alone in severe weather.

Through its Mokwanira Project, EMMS is strengthening rural healthcare so that people can access the care they need as close to home as possible. For example, improving sanitation in rural maternity units, working through community volunteers to tackle TB and helping palliative care patients and their families access medicines they need without excessive travel. These interventions are required every day and mean communities are better equipped in times of crisis. Your year-round support makes this a reality.

Building the healthcare workforce

Malawi was short of nurses, doctors, midwives and other health professionals before Storm Ana. Each crisis brings the strained healthcare system a step closer to breaking point. When a cyclone, landslide, or other crisis strikes, communities need healthcare workers ready to respond. At that point, it is too late to begin training first-responders.

Being genuinely resilient in this global climate crisis means countries need a strong healthcare workforce. Storm Ana struck Madagascar and Mozambique, emergencies can be regional, and the international community is not guaranteed to send the necessary response.

Your support means we can work with our partners in Malawi and beyond to build the healthcare workforce to meet communities’ daily demands and be better prepared for future crises. Through EMMS projects in Malawi, 15 young women have graduated into healthcare professions in the last two and a half years, and with your support, that number will grow.

Crisis-ready healthcare

A woman stands in the ruins of her home surrounded by flood water
Similar flood devastation in Malawi in 2015

When Malawi experienced disastrous flooding in 2015, EMMS International launched an emergency appeal. The EMMS community responded generously to provide emergency relief to those affected. Part of that support was the provision of fuel to keep the generator running at Mulanje Mission Hospital so that operating theatres and wards could remain operational.

Storm Ana caused a national blackout, but the lights stayed on at Mulanje Mission Hospital. The generosity of EMMS supporters is enabling MMH to upgrade its solar power system to no longer be dependent on the national grid. This upgrade has the potential to reduce hospital running costs by around £20,000 a year.

The best time to act is before disaster strikes

We continue to support and pray for our partners as they respond to this crisis, but we cannot wait for disaster to strike to act. Your support will continue to enable our partners to develop facilities and services that can adapt to the changing needs of their communities. Reliable water supplies, greener energy, and well-built facilities are necessary for urgent daily needs and breaking emergencies.

We work with trusted local partners and are guided by them to meet the most pressing local healthcare needs. But the best time to act is before disaster strikes. Your regular support allows our partners to build resilient healthcare systems that meet today’s urgent needs and are ready for future crises.


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