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UK provides $4.5 million to UNICEF and WFP for humanitarian response to Malawi floods

Lilongwe 27 March 2019 – Following heavy rains and catastrophic floods in the south of Malawi, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has provided US $4.5 million (£3.4 million) to fund the UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP) and Red Cross humanitarian response for people displaced by the disaster. This includes funds for food, health, shelter, logistics, water and sanitation.

“The floods and devastation linked to the recent Cyclone Idai weather system have had a shocking impact on the region, including on southern Malawi,” DFID Malawi Head of Office David Beer said. “The UK is absolutely committed to supporting Malawians who have been affected. The £3.4 million of funding for immediate food, shelter, health and water and sanitation needs will help Malawians deal with the immediate impact.”

More than 860,000 people have been impacted in 15 affected districts since 9 March, according to figures from the Department of Disaster Management and Preparedness (DoDMA). This includes 56 deaths and 672 injuries. Almost 87,000 displaced people are currently reported to be living in 173 camps. Additional rains associated with Cyclone Idai are complicating the humanitarian response, as access to vulnerable communities is already limited. With thousands forced out of their flooded homes, many families are living in temporary shelters and lack basic supplies including food, water and sanitation facilities.

“UNICEF’s priority is to help children and families who have lost their homes and are living in evacuation centres or with other families in their communities,” UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig said. “We are already distributing life-saving health, nutrition, water and sanitation supplies to camps and communities across the affected districts. The new UK aid funding will allow us to scale up our response and help even more people.”

“WFP is grateful to UK aid for its generous support,” said WFP Malawi Country Director Benoit Thiry. “We are working around the clock provide food assistance to people facing incredible hardship. This timely contribution, will assist WFP in stepping up assistance to areas worst affected by the floods.”

Health, water and sanitation

There are currently displaced populations in 187 locations, including schools and makeshift shelters. The majority of these are located far from health units and normal health services have been disrupted. Water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed, cutting off access to safe water supplies. The flooding has also contaminated existing boreholes. Faced with water shortages, people moving into emergency camps are relying on unsafe water sources, placing their health at great risk.

UK aid funding will therefore support UNICEF to:

  • reach priority camps with two mobile outreach clinics per district, comprising a team of seven including a nurse, midwife, clinical officer, health surveillance assistant, environmental health officer and pharmacist
  • provide public health services targeted to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks
  • provide safe sanitation and hygiene facilities in emergency camps
  • distribute water purification chemicals and water tanks for safe water storage
  • provide hygiene materials, including soap, buckets and educational materials
  • rehabilitate non-functional water systems.

Food and logistics

Initial assessments report that maize grain prices have increased by over 100 percent in some areas compared to the week before the floods. Commodity prices have also increased by close to 100 percent. There are also challenges for traders to reach some local food markets with their produce, due to damaged roads and bridges.

UK aid funding will therefore support WFP to:

  • provide food and cash-based assistance to 150,000 food-insecure households in most affected areas of Phalombe, Chikwawa and Nsanje districts;
  • procure boats that can be used in swamp conditions to reach the most remote communities and scale up the current operation.

Shelter and camp management

Homes and shelters have been seriously damaged by the heavy rains and floods. Displaced people are camped in schools and using school classrooms, school grounds and other public structures.

UK aid funding will therefore support the Red Cross, through UNICEF, to:

  • provide and mount tents in camps that have been opened in schools
  • support construction of transitional shelters for returning or relocated households
  • procure and distribute relief items to households
  • establish and strengthen camp management structures and support services in camps.

UNICEF and WFP are working closely with the Humanitarian Country Team, DoDMA and local authorities to coordinate urgent assistance. The UK aid intervention will be closely coordinated with other sectors, including agriculture, education, nutrition, early recovery and protection, to ensure a joined-up relief and recovery effort.

Notes for media

You can download UNICEF materials including human interest stories, high-res photos and videos here:  

You can download WFP photos here: 

About UK aid

The UK is committed to spending 0.7 percent of GDP on Official Development Assistance. UK aid tackles the global challenges of our time including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict – aiming to make the world a better, safer and more prosperous place. For more information on the work of UK aid in Malawi visit:


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Malawi visit:

About WFP

The United Nations World Food Programme - saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters and laying the foundations for a better future. For more information about WFP and its work in Malawi visit: Twitter @WFP_media or @WFP_Malawi


Malawi United Kingdom Floods Funding Natural disasters Partnerships


UK aid

James Kessell

+265 88 700 5693



Andrew Brown

+265 999 964208


Rebecca Phwitiko

+265 999 282723



Badre Bahaji

+265 993 78 56 29