BLANTYRE, Malawi—Power outages still plague the Karonga district of Malawi, an area devastated by several December earthquakes that have left at least three dead, more than 80 hospitalized and some 300,000 homeless. Malawi's savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), or credit unions, and the Malawi Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO) are taking steps to aid both members and staff affected by the disaster with help from World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
"We have had severe power disruptions, and it is extremely difficult to communicate," said Sylvester Kadzola, MUSCCO's chief executive and a WOCCU director. "We are hearing unpleasant stories that earthquake victims are being asked to pay money if they want to be assisted quickly. It is disheartening that this is happening in the face of such devastation."
The most recent earthquake, which struck Dec. 20, measured 6.0 on the Richter scale according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Karonga district, which straddles the Great Rift Valley fault line, was struck by another earthquake earlier in the month. According to experts, the two seismic events indicate that the fault line may be "realigning" itself and that new fault lines may be forming, making the earthquake-prone region even more unstable.
"Malawi's SACCOs have performed a critical role in serving the country's people and helping stabilize families and communities," said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and COO. "We will provide whatever assistance we can to MUSCCO to help them stabilize and rebuild their member institutions."
At least one of MUSCCO's 60 member SACCOs was affected by the earthquake, with more than half of the institution's members left homeless in the disaster. The main office of the SACCO, which serves Karonga district teachers, suffered structural damage that will require extensive repair. The SACCO's branch office some 20 miles closer to the earthquake's epicenter was completely destroyed.
With WOCCU's assistance, MUSCCO will be providing aid directly to the SACCO and its members this weekend. No formal fundraising efforts will be undertaken, but WOCCU is accepting donations at www.woccu.org/give in support of Malawi's rebuilding efforts. The Canadian Co-operative Association will also provide financial support for MUSCCO's efforts, Kadzola said.
"Our plan is to give relief straight to the SACCO members," Kadzola said. The money will be used to provide general relief and meet the needs of SACCO members whose houses were damaged or destroyed," he added.
MUSCCO has been serving Malawi's SACCOs since 1980 and is a member organization of WOCCU. Kadzola has been a member of WOCCU's board of directors since 2001.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.