Mary’s Meals is helping families forced from their homes because of torrential flooding in Malawi. 12-year-old Bessie tells her story.

Floods hit the village of Elita in the middle of the night. Nothing that 12-year-old Bessie Loneck and her family could do to protect their home was enough. Everything they had – house, possessions and a small store of maize flour – was washed away.

The south of Malawi was struck by flooding caused by tropical cyclones at the beginning of March. At least 59 people have died in Malawi as a result, and more than 86,000 people were displaced. In the immediate aftermath of the floods, Mary’s Meals’ staff worked with communities to assess the damage to schools and work out the best way to help them. 

As a result, we are currently providing food to 17,172 men, women and children in Malawi who are taking shelter in 39 primary schools. Bessie and her family are among them. 

In the days following the flood, Bessie’s family took shelter in their local school, Sekeni Primary School, which has 3,606 pupils and where Bessie normally goes to attend Standard 5. The school will now become the family’s temporary home while they work to rebuild their house and return to normality. 

Around 70 families have taken refuge at the school – 260 people in total. Each family is allocated a space in one of the classrooms to sleep. School resumed a week ago when water levels dropped sufficiently, but because of families sheltering in classrooms, some lessons now take place outside. 

Bessie said: “Many of the classes have been occupied by families like mine who were affected by the floods. We are forced to learn under trees in this scorching heat.” 

Since the floods, Bessie’s mum, Marita, 40, has been unable to do any paid work and is relying on help from friends and neighbours. 

Marita said: “Floods have interrupted our lives. As a mother, I’m not able to do anything to fend for my children. My children tell me they want to go home, but there is no home.” 

Mary’s Meals remains committed to supporting the affected communities as they rebuild their lives and to providing nutritious daily school meals to children as they return to the classroom, to their education and to their friends.