Let’s build communities resilient to natural disasters

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Cyclone Idai

ENVIRONMENT and climate change experts have always argued that natural disasters are not predictable, but can be prepared for, especially if we build resilient communities that can withstand such catastrophes.

The Cyclone Idai disaster that befell, not only Zimbabwe, but Malawi and Mozambique in March 2019, presented lessons on preparedness and post-disaster management initiatives.

Zimbabwe has also been affected by a number of natural disasters, especially in flood prone areas like Muzarabani, Tsholotsho, Mbire, Chimanimani, Chipinge and some parts of Masvingo.

These disasters were caused by cyclonic rainfall climate change-induced hazards that are more pervasive and frequent, with developing nations especially at risk.

Cyclonic hazards have become more inland, implying that inland regions that normally experience flooding will likely experience sustained recurrences of such events.

However, it is also prudent to note that areas traditionally not known to experience flooding may experience such, albeit localised.

Cyclonic rainfall hazards are difficult to predict because there is no technology, hence can only be detected within a short period of their impact.

Scientists are seized with improving precision in detecting accurate patterns, channel of flow, impact hence the call to entrench institutional disaster preparedness.

Disaster preparedness is premised on prevention, mitigation, response and recovery in emergencies and it is in response and preparedness that authorities have been found wanting over the years.

Like what we experienced after Cyclone Idai, government and its development partners rushed in to assist communities that had been affected by the tropical storm.

Although the response by authorities and their partners was commendable, we always hear of how the same communities have not been saved from the clutches of poverty after losing most of their belongings in the disasters.

The situation has turned desperate because the interventions by government tend to concentrate on immediate relief without looking at what happens after they save the people.

More needs to be done than just providing relief for areas that are affected by natural disasters and this includes assisting communities rebuild their lives through education for their children, water and sanitation, even assisting with agricultural production and skills development.

The path that cyclones follow in southern Africa has already been established, but Zimbabwe still witnesses disasters which speak volumes about lack of preparedness as a country.

There are basics that we should improve on, including evacuation infrastructure and response in the event of occurrence of such disasters. In doing so, we can help prevent natural disasters from becoming absolute disasters for our vulnerable communities.