BY TATENDA CHITAGU
DEEP in the hills and valleys of Bikita, one of the districts in Masvingo most affected by the deadly Cylone Idai, survivors are still counting their losses as aid starts trickling into affected communities.
Most of the country’s attention has been – understandably so – focussed on the worst affected districts of Chipinge and Chimanimani in Manicaland, where 259 died, over 16 000 displaced and 217 remain unaccounted for.
In Masvingo province, five people died, 5 257 households were affected and 511 left homeless, according to the statistics availed by the provincial information office.
Other districts affected are Gutu, Zaka, Chiredzi, Bikita and Masvingo rural. Thirteen schools were affected and four cells at Mutimurefu Prison, about 25km outside Masvingo town, had their roofs ripped off. Several bridges were also washed away, while roads have been left in a bad state.
While the province has fewer people that died compared to Manicaland, it is the infrastructure that is crying out loud.
One of the affected villagers, Annanias Mukushwa from Muchikore village under Chief Ziki in Bikita, is now lodging at relatives’ residences.
He said he has been left literally exposed because his homestead was destroyed and all his belongings such as clothes as well as goats were washed away.
“I do not know where to start. Everything that I had, everything that I toiled for for years is gone. I cannot afford to rebuild on my own, given the high cost of building materials. Again, I am not employed. I appeal to government and other well-wishers to assist me rebuild my home and capacitate me,” he told NewsDay at the weekend.
Another survivor, Shylet Mukore, said while they need food aid, the most pressing thing at the moment was lack of shelter.
“While we also need food aid since we were left with nothing, what is most distressing at the moment is lack of a roof over my head with my husband and four kids. We managed to get temporary shelter from neighbours and relatives, but this is not sustainable,” she said.
Bikita district administrator (DA), Bernard Hadzirabwi said the situation in the district was critical, not only for the cyclone survivors, but the damaged infrastructure as well. He said some areas cannot be accessed due to damaged bridges, while some have improvised bridges.
A case in point was Ganyani Bridge, located 5km from Chikuku turnoff, which links Chikuku business centre and Mashoko Hospital – a huge chunk of the bridge was swept away by the cyclone-induced floods. Only a small portion of the bridge was left which motorists dangerously negotiate.
Some youths were said to be charging $5 for both individual travellers and motorists to cross using a makeshift crossing point at Musaizi Bridge in Bikita.
“The situation is critical because major roads and bridges are in need of repair. We are, however, very grateful that some well-wishers are responding to the cries of the affected villagers. We, however, hope to get donations that will cover every affected household,” he said on Friday at the handover of donated items by sons and daughters of Bikita district dotted across the globe.
The donations, including blankets, clothing, medicines, mealie meal, salt, cooking oil, soap, lotion, rice, beans, and other foodstuffs were sourced by retired army general Engelbert Rugeje, who also hails from Bikita. Rugeje, who is the Zanu PF political commissar, handed over the donations to the DA’s office.
He said he was also going to source for cement so that the villagers’ houses become stronger and tolerate the changing weather conditions.
“Sons and daughters from Bikita indicated they wanted to help people from their home area affected by the cyclone while complimenting government efforts. We also had been promised tents for temporary shelter, but as a long-term solution, we are appealing to well-wishers that priority should be given to donations that will ensure the people construct structures that are durable. We are appealing for cement, window frames and anything that will go a long way in making sure that proper habitable structures are erected,” Rugeje said.
Masvingo provincial administrator and head of the Department of Civil Protection in the province, Fungai Mbetsa said they were doing all they could, under the circumstances, to bring life to normalcy in the affected areas.
“We are increasing relief efforts through non-governmental organisations by providing food, clothing and tents. We are still assessing the extent of damage on infrastructure, but we have moved in to give the affected food, clothes and also we mobilised tents through the Red Cross. We hope to increase support services after fully assessing the situation,” Mbetsa said on Friday last week.
Government said it had released ZWRS$50 million for rescue and reconstruction efforts for the cyclone damaged areas, mainly in Chipinge and Chimanimani.