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Thousands affected by Malawi quake

24 December 2009

Young child with arms behind headBo Mathisen/IFRCThe British Red Cross is deploying an emergency shelter delegate to Malawi after an earthquake on 20 December left thousands homeless.

The government of Malawi has officially declared a national disaster after the northern Malawian district of Karonga experienced its second significant earthquake in two weeks. The magnitude 6.2 quake killed two people and injured at least 170.

Initial assessments indicate at least 4,800 households have been affected, although the number of people directly affected could be as high as 36,000 people. Almost 1,000 houses collapsed in the quake and hundreds more were damaged.

Emergency response

Pete Garratt, disaster relief manager, said: “We immediately released £15,000 from our Disaster Fund and we’re sending emergency shelter delegate Jamie Richardson to Malawi. He leaves on Boxing Day and will support the Malawi Red Cross Society in conducting an assessment and planning for the emergency shelter operation.”

The government has advised people in the affected area to stay outside their homes in case further earthquakes happen. This means many more than 36,000 are living outside, which is particularly worrying as it is now the rainy season in Malawi.

Jamie, who was a member of one of the first Red Cross teams to deploy to Sri Lanka, after the Boxing Day tsunami, five years ago, said: “Since the tsunami, there has been increased focus on the importance of shelter in a crisis. It provides people with the security they need and restores dignity. It’s a place to eat, protect your children and keep your belongings. Lack of shelter is what makes people most vulnerable – sunstroke and exposure can kill within hours.”

Red Cross support

Earlier this month, on 6 December, a series of tremors – peaking at magnitude 5.8 – hit Karonga, killing one child and leaving around 15,000 people homeless. The Malawi Red Cross Society has been active in Karonga since the 6 December tremors, and responded to the 20 December earthquake immediately.

Since 6 December, Red Cross volunteers and staff have distributed 510 shelter kits, 1,020 tarpaulins, 200 blankets and 200 jerry cans. The Red Cross is providing temporary shelter and emergency relief items to more than 1,900 households affected by the 6 December earthquake. It is also revising its plans to take into account the additional needs created by the most recent quake.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has released £183,000 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the operation. However, it is clear that the needs of those affected will require more from the Red Cross and the wider humanitarian community.

More about current emergencies

A donation from our Disaster Fund has been made in response to this crisis. Contributions to the Disaster Fund will not be used directly in response to this disaster, but will be used in response to other emergencies in the future.

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