Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba Special Correspondent
Over the past weeks, I’ve been unbelievably moved by the outpouring of compassion, empathy and sympathy exhibited by local and international well-wishers from all walks of life shown towards the victims of the natural disaster, Tropical Cyclone Idai.
The magnitude of Cyclone Idai was not anticipated. It destroyed livelihoods, crops, livestock, bridges, roads and battered homes.
An estimated 85 000 people in Chimanimani, 50 015 in Chipinge, 8 085 in Mutare, 15 800 in Buhera, 325 in Mutasa and 245 in Makoni were affected.
The most hard-hit areas in Chimanimani are Ngangu and Kopa, while several people were displaced in Machongwe, Chikukwa, Nyahode, Peacock, Muchadziya and Vimba.
In response to Cyclone Idai, the Zimbabwe National Army rescue and search teams swiftly moved in to open roads that had been blocked by mud and debris to pave way for food relief from numerous donors across the globe.
Helicopters from both the Government and the private sector were mobilised and family tents were provided for the internally displaced persons, medical centres immediately established while food security teams have been distributing both food and non-food items to the survivors.
I would like to thank His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, for personally leading from the front when he visited the Cyclone Idai-devastated areas immediately after the disaster and recently.
I would also like to thank Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, the Inter-Ministerial Cabinet Committee on Environment and Disaster Management led by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Honourable July Moyo. I would also want to further thank President Mnangagwa for setting up a High Level Task Force led by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Dr Vincent Hungwe, who came to Manicaland Province on a fact-finding mission on the effect of Cyclone Idai.
A heartily thanks goes to all political party and religious leaders who came to share their grief and pain which befell our people in Chimanimani, Chipinge and other districts. Their tour of this province certainly reflects the deep concern, love, care and unity among fellow Zimbabweans.
Thank you, the people of Zimbabwe, for the unity exhibited in support of the victims of Cyclone Idai. We should not just wait for disasters to become a family. This type of unity despite colour, creed, religion or political affiliation should persist and be cherished.
I would also want to express gratitude to our development partners, notably the UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, UNFA and other United Nations agencies, the European Union and the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America who supported us with finances, doctors, food and non-food items. The list is endless and not exhaustive. Let me share with you highlights from the various sub-committees set up in response to the disaster.
We have received donations in cash and kind and have established a system that is transparent. Our up-to-date financials are open to audit and public scrutiny.
Search and recovery operations
Search and recovery operations for missing persons are on-going with the assistance of sniffer dogs from South Africa.
The sniffer dogs have so far identified 16 points in Ngangu which have been marked for retrieval of possible buried bodies and 11 points in Kopa.
However, searches in Ngangu and Rusitu have been difficult because boulders are hindering access.
Statistical summary of the affected
It is with a heavy heart that I have to say confirmed deaths as of April 7, 2019 stand at 339 and all were buried, 347 are missing, 183 injured, while 1 654 people were internally displaced.
Hasten to say 158 bodies were discovered in Rusitu River and buried in neighbouring Mozambique.
Food and psychosocial support
Various food and non-food items were donated, but unfortunately there are still shortfalls in some areas vis-à-vis expected targets. I am pleased to say 17 531 children have been reached with psychosocial support services, 315 have gone into foster care, 122 unaccompanied minors and separated children have been assisted, while over 12 691 out of 85 000 affected people in Chimanimani have received initial counselling and psychosocial support.
Regards the psychosocial support, we have partnered with several well-wishers including United Nations Agencies, non-governmental organisations, churches and tertiary institutions.
Over 16 500 households are currently benefiting from food assistance, thanks to the swift response of all stakeholders.
At least 5 416 elderly have received the same support, while disability support is 2 504.
Reconstruction of roads and bridges
Reconstruction of roads and washed away bridges is on-going, with gravelling, detour construction, temporary backfilling of culvert washed away, backfilling of approaches, alignment of road widening completed, and communities are now accessible. However, damaged access roads in the affected areas require at least US$9 750 000 in repairs.
The approximate cost for reconstructing the damaged roads and bridges is US$31 million. We wish to sincerely thank companies such as Bitumen World and Greenfuel, among others, who were the first to mobilise their road equipment and worked on the Rutengeni tarred road section in Chipinge District, which was flooded and resulted in vehicles sinking. I am pleased to say construction of detours is now complete and most communities are now accessible, except for Chikukwa, Vimba and Mutsvangwa among others.
As at April 3, 2019, 4 011 patients were attended to at various health institutions and temporary clinics. The cost of repairs to damaged health facilities is still being determined by the Ministry of Local Government in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. Chronic disease medicines are being availed.
There are 1 654 internally displaced persons currently being accommodated at various holding camps in Chimanimani and Chipinge.
It breaks my heart to state that 52 school learners died as a result of the cyclone, while 70 are still missing. At least six teachers have also been reported missing in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.
Eighty-nine school infrastructures including dining halls, dormitories and toilets, houses and classrooms were destroyed.
Repairs to damaged infrastructure to schools in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Buhera, Mutasa and Mutare districts is estimated at US$3,6 million. Thirty-three primary schools and 10 secondary schools were officially closed in Chimanimani on March 26, 2019 and expected to re-open on April 30 this month.
Sixty-eight vehicles including lorries and 4X4s have been made available against a required number of 81, while three helicopters out of a required nine were availed for rescue operations. We have so far received over 80 000 litres of diesel and 6 000 litres of petrol from various organisations and those contributions are well received.
I am pleased to inform you that power has been restored in some areas in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Nyanga and Middle Sabi and strenuous efforts are being made to restore power in other affected areas.
De-siltation of canals and conservation work has commenced in all affected areas.
The estimate cost to damaged agricultural infrastructure is US$964 000. More than 9 315 hectares of various crops were destroyed, while irrigation infrastructure was damaged.
Industry and commerce
Most companies lost property worth at least US$5 million, assessed so far, while equipment, infrastructure and stock loss amounted to an estimated US$900 000 in the small and medium enterprises sector.
The Government is going to provide assistance to this sector so that communities can access goods and services in their localities.
Cables and poles worth an estimated $285 000 were washed away in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Mutare and Rusape and efforts are underway to restore communication.
The writer is the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs