Editorial Comment: It’s time Cyclone Idai survivors start afresh

05 Nov, 2019 - 00:11 0 Views
Editorial Comment: It’s time Cyclone Idai survivors start afresh (FILE) Cyclone Idai cut off electricity and vital road links, shaking the economies of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi

The Herald

In any disaster, making survivors comfortable as much as possible should be the top priority of agencies that deal with such issues. There is nothing uncomfortable for survivors of a disaster than to think that they are about to face yet another disaster. Yet this is exactly the situation facing survivors of Cyclone Idai that hit mainly Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of Manicaland Province in March.

We are already in the rainy season, but the survivors are still living in makeshift tents that make them susceptible to yet another stormy period.

Apart from the loss of life and extensive destruction caused by the tropical storm, many victims were left stranded, their livelihoods completely destroyed that they needed to start life afresh as quickly as possible.

While we acknowledge that Government and its development partners have done a lot, including rebuilding schools and road infra-structure and feeding the survivors, we observe that providing permanent accommodation for most of them has not been achieved.

Reports that around 700 people are still living in makeshift tents in the Ngangu area, almost nine months after disaster struck, should make us all get concerned.

Apart from those at Ngangu, another sizeable number of victims is also living in such makeshift tents at Copa, another area that was hit hard by the cyclone.

The fact that we are already in the rainy season should be a major point of concern for the survivors, who cannot imagine the trouble that comes with such living conditions when it rains.

It is like we are staring another disaster in the making.

Lack of proper amenities and sanitation at such camps increases the prospects of an outbreak of diseases, especially during this time of the year.

What is needed now is to prioritise the resettlement of these people in proper houses that can resist the vagaries of weather.

Of course, we are not saying the authorities and their development partners have not been doing anything to address the damage caused by the tropical storm.

They have done much in terms of making the areas accessible by attending to roads and bridges.

For instance, a number of construction companies were awarded tenders to either repair the damaged roads or open new ones, and there has been much progress in this area.

Many places are now accessible, thanks to the work being done by these companies.

The arrival of a contingent from the South African National Defence Forces in July reinforced the construction work, as they have worked with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to construct a new bridge at Rusitu.

The two defence forces are building another bridge at Nyaude, which is expected to be completed soon.

Another commendable effort by the Government and its partners has been the availability of food aid to the victims.

The fact that we have not heard of any of the victims starving shows adequate provision of supplies.

More attention should now be given to the provision of safe and habitable accommodation for the survivors.

It is practically impossible for the victims to return to their places of origin, mainly because of the massive destruction caused by the cyclone.

Apart from the destruction of homes, the landscape has totally changed, as the floods damaged critical infrastructure and farmlands, with huge boulders strewn all over the place.

This means that even if the victims are to return to their original homes, they will still find it difficult to lead normal lives.

Authorities must move with speed to provide decent houses for the survivors, probably in a new area where they can start afresh.

We are concerned that efforts have been made to come up with permanent settlements for victims, but nothing tangible has so far come out of it.

Econet Wireless proposed in May, to build 500 new homes for the victims, an idea approved by the Government, but that was the last time we heard about the issue.

The Government said it was working on a rural set-up for the victims, with semi-urban structures, but this seems to be taking long to implement.

While these efforts are noble, one of the important lessons to come out of Cyclone Idai is that survivors should be helped to quickly settle to enable them to put the disaster behind them.

There is nothing that can satisfy the survivors more than being helped to start life on a new slate. This means the Government has to re-examine its disaster response policy to strengthen its systems in terms of mitigating the effects of such occurrences by focusing more on the individual survivors.

Resettlement, in the case of Cyclone Idai survivors, will help heal the wounds and empower them to live normal lives once more. The provision of roads, bridges, schools and food are equally important, but these cannot cover for the desire of the survivors to live inde-pendent lives again.

As long as they are living in makeshift tents, the survivors will remain in a state of disaster for their entire lives, with or without the rainy season.

It is good that the rainy season is now here, for it will help us reflect more on how far we have gone in providing relief to the individu-al survivor.

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