Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
The Ministry of Health and Child Care’s forensic department has called for more families that lost their loved ones during Cyclone Idai to come forward and submit DNA samples to enable the identification of all remains that may be found in future.
About 344 people were reported as missing after the devastating cyclone hit Chimanimani and Chipinge on March 15, killing 341 and leaving more than 17 000 homeless.
After the disaster, Government sent a team of pathologists to Mozambique to take samples of the remains of Zimbabweans buried in that country to conduct DNA tests.
The teams have also been collecting samples from families to enable identification of those whose remains have not yet been found.
Speaking in Mutare recently, Ministry of Health pathologist Dr Fungai Javangwe said only 128 samples had been submitted so far.
“We are building a database so that anytime remains are discovered, we will be able to compare with samples in our database. We have collected samples covering 128 missing individuals but we only managed to exhume two bodies and match them. There are 126 outstanding samples of individuals who will still need to be identified,” he said.
“The fact that victims of the liberation war are still being looked for is testimony that even 40 years after this cyclone, people will still want to know what happened to their loved ones who went missing. We anticipate that even in 2060, we will continue to witness bodies being found.”
Dr Javangwe said there was need for increased capacity building within Government departments to ensure that identification of victims from the disaster continues to be prioritised.
“We had a situation in Ngangu where we had to exhume a body because it had initially been identified incorrectly, so we want to avoid that in future. Any remains which are going to be found in future must be properly identified,” he added.