Cletus Mushanawani in Chimanimani
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa was yesterday overcome with emotion after she came face to face with the harrowing stories of the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai.
Minister Mutsvangwa toured Ngangu and Skyline in Chimanimani, which were among the hardest hit areas, and wept as she listened to nerve-wracking stories of some of the survivors.
She appealed for more aid, especially psycho-social services for traumatised children, who are still having nightmares of the March 16 and 17 events.
“If someone has not been in Chimanimani, he or she will not understand the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis there,” said Minister Mutsvangwa. “We all have a duty to help our brothers and sisters who went through living hell last week.
“Some people are still marooned, while most were left homeless. They desperately need food, clean water, clothes, a roof above them and blankets.
“The water issue should be addressed as a matter of urgency as people are now resorting to drinking contaminated water. An outbreak of water-borne diseases is imminent if this issue is not urgently addressed.
“My heart bleeds for the children who need psychotherapy. Most of them are visibly traumatised and are not going to school. The scars of the cyclone will remain embedded in them if psycho-services are not availed to them.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said this was the right time for all Zimbabweans to unite and show the world that the spirit of ubuntu was still in them.
“Chimanimani is literally cut off from the rest of the world and a lot of work has to be done to restore all the damaged infrastructure,’ she said. “Government alone cannot carry this burden. Development partners, churches and well-wishers from across the globe can also come on board.
“We still need more helicopters and planes to help carry food and medical supplies to the affected areas as some of them are not accessible by road. People are suffering and they need our help. We still have hundreds of people still unaccounted for, while some are reported to have been buried under rubble. They deserve decent burials and we should join hands in the exhumation process.”
Minister Mutsvangwa hailed chiefs from neighbouring Mozambique, where some of the bodies were swept to, for their assistance in conducting burials there as well as notifying the local leadership.
“Some chiefs in Mozambique have taken it upon themselves to bury the bodies that are being discovered there, but before that they are taking photographs of the victims and this has also helped in the identification process,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa concurred with President Mnangagwa on the need for a new rural settlement policy.
“We cannot allow people to continue staying in mountainous areas,” she said. “Most of these people are illegal settlers and need to be moved somewhere because if disaster strikes again they will be badly affected. People should be settled on safer ground.”
In a separate interview in Mutare, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba called for an improvement of housing structures in rural areas.
“On my way to Chipinge I drove through Bikita and along the way what I was able to see was a silent cyclone by way of structures that were destroyed because of the cyclone,” he said. “There is one family which is led by three widows and three children who lost two huts.
“When you look at a hut in our cultural context it is a kitchen, a bedroom and a granary. That trebles the tragedy which hit that family. They lost their grain, they have nowhere to sleep and they have nowhere to prepare food for the family.”
Mr Charamba took a swipe at some unscrupulous individuals who are taking advantage of the victims to rip them off.
“What, though, is disheartening to me personally was to pick up reports that families whose structures are much more solid are in fact levying something like $10 per night per person,” he said.
“It is not the way to deal with neighbours in a distressful environment. That spirit of ubuntu that typifies us as a people must be on show.”