Zomba — Government says its priority is to support people that are affected by recent prolonged rains with food and non-food items.
The prolonged rains left at least 23 people dead and 29 others injured in the Southern Region.
Minister of Civic Education and Community Development, Everton Chimulirenji was speaking on Sunday after visiting Zomba where about 29,892 houses have been affected with some collapsing following the rains that lasted four days.
The spell also compelled some people to seek shelter in schools, churches, health centres and other government facilities.
Chimulirenji, who is Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential running mate, was accompanied by Deputy Minister of Homeland Security Charles Mchacha when he visited Tillie Community Day Secondary School at Zomba Thondwe, Chaweza area at Zomba Chisi and Mchengawedi Primary School at Zomba Malosa.
The three schools host families that have been rendered destitute by the rains.
He distributed rice, blankets, plastic pails and salt to the affected families while pledging more support to other people who are also affected in the country.
"The government will continue with this response," he said, adding that it is already responding to effects of last year's drought through relief assistance distribution.
Zomba District Council, with assistance from Department of Disaster Management Affairs has been distributing maize from January to March to households affected by last year's drought which left many of them food insecure.
The Homeland Security Deputy Minister said his ministry will first respond to the needs of those that are affected by the prolonged rains and other forms of disasters with speed before concentrating on non-emergency issues.
"We're dealing with people's lives," Mchacha added, saying government was meanwhile focusing on life saving strategies in responding to the current disaster situation.
He, however, asked for fairness amongst responsible officials and beneficiaries when registering and distributing relief items to ensure affected families appreciate government humanitarian response.
"I know there are some people who're dishonest when registering and handling relief food items," Mchacha said.
Zomba District Commissioner, Emmanuel Bambe said the council is also responding to the disaster through food security, water sanitation and hygiene, camp and shelter management, education, health, social protection, transport and logistics, agriculture, nutrition and coordination clusters through continued assessments.
He said the immediate needs for displaced people include food, shelter, blankets, clothes, buckets, plates, pots, and medication.
During the rains, 3255 families found refuge in evacuation centres where they are now in need of food and other non-food relief assistance.
Senior Traditional Authority Malemia commended government for the speedy response to the disaster, saying the gesture was evident that government is concerned with the welfare of people.
Six people from Chikowi area and one from Malemia area died after their houses collapsed on them in Zomba during the four days of continuous rains.