The aftermath of floods, another humanitarian disaster

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Peter Makwanya

AS the rains draw closer, it is in the interest of humanism/Ubuntu to continue reminding each other of the imminent arrival of violent storms and floods, violent enough to inflict pain, untold suffering and infrastructural damage, as well as the loss of human lives.

By Peter Makwanya

Floods are always devastating, in severest terms, and their prime targets are mainly homes, livestock, people, infrastructure and crops, all in low-lying areas.

Lately, Zimbabwe has experienced floods of different proportions and magnitude, but it appears the country is a slow learner in this regard.

Of course, floods are a natural phenomenon that always comes whether we like it or not, but their successful management and intervention is deeply rooted in comprehensive planning and early-warning systems.

It is not always good to feel sorry for the State institutions that are supposed to empathise with us in the event that violent storms and floods strike. We end up feeling sorry for the responsible authorities because of their poor planning and inept handling of disasters. When violent floods strike, responsible authorities are often clueless, exposed and hapless.

Those who are tasked with issuing out warnings or conscientising communities always wait for this menace to mercilessly strike the nation, that is when you hear them, at least having something to say, because they must be heard uttering something.

Although conscientising people before floods come may not stop them from coming anyway, it is also important to inform people, so that they plan sustainably. Forewarning and arming people minimises costs, including loss of lives, property, infrastructural and environmental damage.

There are departments of disaster management or reduction, the Civil Protection Unit, as well as the Environment, Water and Climate ministry, who are tasked with establishing some regulatory effects in the management of disasters and I would like to believe they are doing just that, therefore, would not want to be found wanting in these times of need, despite their enormous role duplications.

Disaster-prone areas in this country are in the public domain, therefore, the responsible authorities need to come up with disaster risk reduction management funds, coalitions of the local people to educate, orient and train others in order to avoid potential humanitarian crises.

It is quite significant that communities in disaster red-zones need to be educated about how best they can handle their situations in the event of losing everything.

Of course, it will be difficult for affected people to confront the enormous rebuilding costs, while at the same time requiring rehabilitation to manage the stress associated with post-flood experiences.

Since Zimbabwe is often hit by floods, it is necessary for the government to come up with a repository fund to help care for flood victims, while well-wishers can always render assistance as well. Continuing to operate without any sort of bail-out is as dangerous as is the natural disaster itself.

The costs of the previous floods should be documented, recorded and maintained for similar future scenarios. These would be ideally situated to cushion the affected people from post-disaster shocks through food handouts, materials (clothes and blankets), and monetary assistance, together with emotional and spiritual relief. In this regard, it is quite clear that flood water would recede, but affected people may continue to suffer if they don’t receive any form of support.

Flood victims, depending on vetting, social standing and ability to pay back, they may even be afforded the chance to borrow money in the form of loans so that they will be able to rebuild their lives. This is important in the sense that flood victims also become accountable and if nothing of this nature is available, then they will remain hapless beggars.

In the aftermath of floods the survivors — who have been mainly surviving on farming and they would have lost crops, seed, seedlings and fertilisers — would need to start afresh. The survivors, whose homes would have been destroyed by floods will also be out in the cold and in need of tents, safe drinking water and toilets.

As we speak, in nearby South Africa, they are trying to come to terms with effects of floods which rocked Kwa Zulu Natal and some parts of Gauteng province, with some casualties, of course.

Elsewhere, floods have also wreaked havoc in the United States. When we are talking of the US and South Africa, we are talking of countries that have the means and resources to manage disasters, but are overwhelmed by them.

Responsible authorities should strengthen their Early Warning Systems and Advisory Services, so that people would be notified in advance on whether to vacate to safe areas, whether to stay indoors or not, drive or not drive.

As such, investing in flood alert systems may be long overdue. A community register also needs to be kept and maintained so that routine calls are made to establish those missing against those present.

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