HomeUnited KingdomPress release: UK sends life-saving support to cyclone-hit Malawi

Press release: UK sends life-saving support to cyclone-hit Malawi

  • UK sends search and rescue team of 27 and medical team of six to help the Government of Malawi save lives in the aftermath of the Cyclone Freddy
  • Support will also provide shelter and water to thousands of people hit by flooding
  • British teams will work with the Malawi authorities to provide help where most needed

Working alongside the Malawians, our search and rescue and medical teams are playing a critical role in helping ensure those who have lost their homes in the floods receive much required expert assistance and that we prevent a wider outbreak of cholera. The UK ISAR team will support Malawian authorities in the search for survivors of the floods, assisted by their specialist equipment which includes lightweight, nimble boats and a drone team. These boats will be gifted to the Malawi Government for future emergency use when the UK ISAR team departs. The initial UK package of assistance, which arrived in Malawi today, comprises: 27 members of the UK’s International Search and Rescue Team (ISAR); and six from the UK Emergency Medical Team (EMT); specialist boats; and urgently needed emergency relief items. The flight with our support left Birmingham airport this morning.

The Emergency Medical Team will support hospitals in southern Malawi to treat victims of Cyclone Freddy and save lives. Their support builds on the existing cholera-focussed UK EMT who have been in Malawi since January 2023, and are helping to reduce the risk of the on-going cholera outbreak. Our support will provide emergency shelter to approximately 3,600 people and allow up to 12,750 people affected by the floods to access safe drinking water, protecting them from disease.

Notes to editors: The UK government remains in close contact with the authorities in the area and is ready to assist any British nationals affected. UK Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell MP said: This is in addition to the immediate help the UK provided to the Malawian Government, when the cyclone hit last week, to help launch emergency operations. This builds on the UK’s longstanding partnership with Malawi, working together on crisis preparedness and resilience. For example, the UK has supported Malawi tackle cholera and Covid-19. The UK is providing urgently needed crisis expertise and humanitarian supplies to Malawi following the devastation caused by Cyclone Freddy. We have been working since this horrendous cyclone hit to support the emergency response in Malawi and provide life-saving assistance to those who need it most. Over 300 people have died in the tragic event which has also left nearly 20,000 people without homes.

  • Cyclone Freddy made landfall in Mozambique on 11 March and Malawi on 12 March. The flooding has already displaced 183,000 people.
  • Malawi was hit particularly hard with what would have previously been judged a 1-in-20 year weather event.
  • While the wider picture remains unclear due to lack of access, so far 326 people have died, while 796 have sustained various injuries and over 200 people are still reported as missing.
  • Flooding, covering over 400 km2, is expected to persist until next week. President Chakwera has declared a state of disaster.
  • The UK team will be working with Malawian authorities to rescue those stranded by the high flood waters.

UK-International Search and Rescue Teams

  • The ISAR team deployed through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office following a request for assistance from Malawi.
  • The team is on permanent standby to mobilise and assist when requested by disaster-affected countries. It always deploys as an official UK government team once a request has been made for assistance.
  • Any UK ISAR team deployed is self-sufficient upon arrival and provides its own food, water, shelter, sanitation, communications and all necessary equipment to undertake search and rescue operations for up to 14 days.
  • This is to ensure no additional burden is placed upon a country already suffering demands on its resources following a sudden onset disaster.
  • UK ISAR was established in 1993, is made up of 14 Fire and rescue services, and has helped deal with the aftermath of disasters around the world.


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