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Residents of the lowland Pawaga division in Iringa district were victims of flooding this month (February 2016). The people of Pawaga grow rice in paddy fields which are irrigated from the Little Ruaha and Great Ruaha rivers. Many people either live permanently by the rice paddies or stay temporarily in mud houses at the edge of the paddies during the main growing season of January to April, taking their families and belongings with them.

From early in the morning on the 12th February, following extremely heavy rains in both the West and the South of Pawaga in a very short period of time, the unprecedented volume of water burst the banks at the confluence of the two rivers and people awoke to find water rising rapidly engulfing their homes. People scrambled to the only high ground available – termite mounds, whilst others climbed trees to escape the water. It is fortunate that the flood occurred in the daytime and not during the night, or else many would not have made it to dry ground. The people watched as their homes, possessions and food got washed away and their crops were destroyed.

Response to the need

The government responded quickly and a boat was brought in from the Mtera reservoir, about 70km away. The police helicopter was also brought in from Dar es Salaam to assist with the rescue operation. Over three days the helicopter dropped food supplies and identified stranded people who were picked up in the boat, whilst others were accompanied to safety wading through the water after it started to subside.

Areas affected

EI has been working in Pawaga with the fuel efficient stoves project since 2011. Simon Mpogola, chairman of the Itunundu/Kimande stoves group and also evangelist of the Anglican church was among the victims. He and his family were stranded on a termite mound for two days until the emergency services helped them to safety.

The two villages affected were Itundundu and Kisanga. In Kisanga, a whole sub-village of 100 homes was destroyed by the flooding. The 452 people affected have been relocated to another area, where the families are living in a camp of temporary shelters and makeshift dormitories provided by the government.

The situation in Itunundu is more complex as the area affected is much larger. Some have lost homes whilst others have lost possessions and have no food. Although many people were rescued by boat, others didn’t want to be rescued as they were concerned about theft of their remaining possessions. Others were concerned that they would be in trouble with the authorities as they were farming in a reservation area without permission. The 261 people who were rescued ‘officially’ have been registered and accommodation was initially provided in Itunundu primary school. However, the school had to re-open for the students so the homeless people have been told to stay with friends and relatives as the local authorities do not have the resources to build a camp for them. Other victims are turning up every day, having made their own way back from the flooded area, but it is a huge challenge for local leaders to identify and verify who are the ones who genuinely need help. Some food and clothing has been provided by government and other donors but with so many people in need it will not last long. There is also cholera in the area which presents a special danger to people living in such close quarters.


Amidst this terrible situation there is much to be grateful for. No lives were lost to the floods and the government has been proactive in its response. EI staff visited the area and listened to some of the victims recount incredible stories of what happened and how they were rescued. Many residents of the main village of Itunundu who were not affected by the flooding have opened their homes to people who have been made homeless by the flood. We also learned of at least two miracles – two mothers gave birth to babies on termite mounds while awaiting rescue. One of the them, a girl named Esther, was put in a bucket as her family waded to the rescue boat. The other baby, a girl named Amina, was rescued by helicopter with her mother. We are grateful that these two babies are doing well but their mothers are sleeping on the floor in relatives’ homes.

How you can help

EI, working through our partner church the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha, has been able to provide food and clothing to the people of Itunundu which was donated by churches and individuals in Iringa town. But more help is needed, especially food. Approximately £10 will buy enough maize flour to feed a family for a week.

If you would like to help the people of Pawaga you can donate securely online via Charity Checkout (click the button below) or by sending a cheque (made out to Emmanuel International) marked ‘Pawaga emergency’ to Emmanuel International UK at the address Forum House, Stirling Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 7DN. Please pray for these people and for churches , the government and other agencies trying to help them.


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For an update on the Pawaga Flood Appeal, read this latest post.

Appeal for flood victims of Pawaga, Tanzania
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