From reproach to dignity through HFH Malawi interventions to communities

Meet Efelo Nyirongo, a 47-year-old small-scale business owner at Target Market in Mchengautuwa East Ward, Mzuzu city. She is among the 320 beneficiaries of the ‘Cash for Work’ initiative under the ‘Strengthening All-Inclusive Disaster Preparedness and Linking Early Warning to Early Action’ project in Mzuzu City Council.

  • facebook
  • Twitter

Habitat for Humanity Malawi (HFH Malawi) is implementing this two-year project in three Malawian cities: Mzuzu, Blantyre, and Zomba. The project aims to protect livelihoods in these urban centers through enhanced, all-inclusive disaster preparedness. It seeks to build resilience, empower communities, and foster proactive measures at community, city, and national levels to create safer and more resilient urban environments in Malawi.

  • facebook
  • Twitter

Efelo Nyirongo, a mother of four, has actively participated in community initiatives on drainage clearing and waste management in her neighborhood. She volunteered to assist with local artisan work, such as providing water at drainage rehabilitation sites. Previously known in her neighborhood for her involvement in sex work, she decided to change her life after experiencing repeated gender-based violence from her clients.
“I used to suffer severe beatings from cruel customers who often didn’t pay me,” she said, her face filled with regret.

“I was involved in prostitution for survival, to ensure my four children never went to bed hungry,” she added.

Year after year, her rented house, located near the drainage rehabilitation works, was affected by floods due to poor drainage. She decided to assist with the construction work, supplying water for a daily wage of MK2800 over 10 days, totaling MK28,000. She saved this money throughout the construction period and decided to leave prostitution. She started a small business selling tomatoes, onions, fruits, vegetables, and cooked groundnuts. On a good day, she could earn between MK5000 and MK6000.
When another opportunity arose, a cash-for-work initiative within the project where communities were clearing waste, she also benefited. Through the initiative the communities were receiving MK1800 for four man-days of work.
‘I used all of my earnings to expand my business,’ she said with a smile. She added that she used the waste she collected from the drainage to make manure for her small-scale backyard vegetable garden.

  • facebook
  • Twitter

“I am grateful for this project. It has transformed my livelihood. I no longer struggle to pay rent, and I have a stable small-scale business.’ She added that the drainage rehabilitation has made her home safe from the effects of flooding.”
Through the project, HFH Malawi is targeting 12 wards in Blantyre, Zomba, and Mzuzu, focusing on 4 wards per city. In Blantyre, the wards are Bangwe, Blantyre South, Ndirande, and Matope. In Mzuzu, they are Mchengautuwa East, Mchengautuwa West, Nkholongo-Lupaso, and Zolozolo West. In Zomba, the project operates in Likangala, Chambo, Chinamwali, and Sadzi wards.
With a key focus on establishing risk-informed urban early warning systems linked to early action. The project aims to significantly reduce the risk of injuries, deaths, and property loss/damage resulting from disasters experienced by the population in these cities by the end of 2024.
At least 18,725 beneficiaries have been prioritized in each of the cities: Mzuzu, Blantyre, and Zomba