‘Zim govt should do more for Cyclone Idai survivors’

The Zimbabwean government should put in place more recovery efforts for Cyclone Idai victims so that they can re-build their shattered lives, the Refugees International (RI),said in its latest report.

By Tatenda Chitagu/Rutendo Matanhike

When Cyclone Idai made landfall mid-March this year in parts of Manicaland, it left a trail of destruction as heavy winds and torrential rains destroyed houses and other infrastructure, killing over 500 people in its wake.

The most affected areas in Zimbabwe were Chimanimani, Chipinge, and some districts of Masvingo.

The report, titled Devastation and Displacement, published yesterday, notes that while both the Zimbabwean and Mozambican governments, as well as the international humanitarian community should be applauded for “mounting robust and well-coordinated emergency relief efforts”, a lot still needs to be done to bring back normalcy in the lives of the affected persons.

“Despite the impact of the initial response, however, there are four priority issues that must be addressed: Sustaining the emergency response for those still in need, ensuring durable internal resettlement or return for internally-displaced people, and preparing for a future hunger crisis due to massive loss of crops and promoting disaster risk reduction in all aspects of the response,” part of the report reads.

It further notes that even as attention shifts to recovery and reconstruction, the southern African governments and international donors must remember that the emergency was not over for everyone.

“Early recovery efforts for displaced people must be improved. For the majority of those displaced, their land is no longer liveable. The governments of Mozambique and Zimbabwe have either provided or intend to provide new land for those communities to resettle permanently,” RI says.

“However, for resettlement to be sustainable, new land must be selected on criteria that reduce risk in the face of future natural hazards such as high winds, flooding and landslides. Additionally, both governments — with the support of international donors — must make significant and targeted investments in livelihoods and social services, especially for those who have been moved far from their homes.”

The report says both governments must also provide basic home building supplies and materials to those who have been resettled and to those who have been able to return home.

“Most of the former currently live in tents, while many of the latter lost all their possessions and had their houses partially or totally destroyed. They are vulnerable to the elements right now, let alone in the event of future cyclones,” the report says.

RI urged the southern African region to be prepared for similar storms in the future by investing more in robust disaster risk reduction efforts.

The report pressed the Zimbabwean government, together with donors and the United Nations (UN), to act on mapping a way forward in order to curb an impending worsened food crisis.

“In Zimbabwe, though Cyclone Idai affected a smaller area, the damage exacerbated an ongoing, countrywide food-security crisis. The government, donors and the United Nations must act immediately to stave off an even broader food-security emergency in the months ahead,” RI says in the report.

“For example, the World Food Programme must be supported to pre-position food stocks in strategic locations, the Food and Agriculture Organisation needs more funding to expand the distribution of seeds and tools (including for more flood- and drought-resistant crops), a UN Humanitarian co-ordinator should be designated for Zimbabwe, and cash programming should be expanded, where feasible. Cash assistance, in particular, can be used in emergencies and to build resilience to mitigate the impact of future shocks.”

Approximately a third of the country’s population is not food secure with the situation only expected to worsen going into 2020.

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