Malawi’s President Appeals for Immediate Aid After Cyclone Freddy

Malawi’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, has pleaded with the world to send immediate aid to the country in southern Africa, which has been devastated by storms that have killed more than 300 people and forced hundreds of thousands more from their homes.

“We need immediate help,” he told newsmen on Thursday from outside a camp in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital and one of the areas hardest hit. “We need helicopters now that [the storms have] cleared off somewhat so that we can airlift some foodstuffs and other equipment.”

During the weekend, Tropical Storm Freddy struck the southern African coast once more, devastating Malawi and its neighbour Mozambique. Since February, there have been more than 400 fatalities recorded in the region, with at least 326 of the deaths occurring in Malawi.

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Chakwera, who proclaimed 14 days of mourning and offered $1.5 million in aid, is now pleading for greater assistance, claiming that the nation’s ability to deliver relief is constrained.

“Climate change is real, and what we are having to see is devastation,” the president said. “Thirteen months, three devastating cyclones. We are trying to do the best we can to pull ourselves by [our] bootstraps.”

Stronger storms are being fueled by thermal energy from the water’s surface as ocean temperatures rise due to climate change. Freddy broke the record for the greatest cyclone energy ever accumulated, which is determined by the average wind speed of a storm over its entire existence. According to meteorologists, it might set two more records.

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Chakwera said recovering from such a storm cannot happen without international help. “What is happening to us can happen to anyone, anywhere,” he said. “Let the world come in and help Malawi because we cannot afford to be going backwards instead of forward in terms of all the provisions that Malawians need.”

Rasmane Kabore, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Blantyre, said the most pressing issue was the lack of clean water, which could cause a cholera outbreak like the aftermath of Cyclone Anna in the country’s south last year.

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