Farai Dzirutwe recently in Chimanimani
“We were caught completely unawares because we had not been forewarned. Nothing and no one could have prepared us for the devastation.
“Many in the local Christian community were beginning to fear that this was a repeat of the great flood of Noah which we read about in the book of Genesis,” reflected Chimanimani resident Ms Ruvimbo Mazive, on the country’s deadliest natural disaster to date.
“We lost everything that underpins our well-being. Lives, houses, livestock, crops and all other necessities of life.”
The scale of destruction witnessed in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai was of inconceivable proportions, leaving the south eastern districts utterly wretched and desolate.
However, few would have imagined that in a little over three and a half years, livelihoods and infrastructure would be restored, almost to pre-disaster levels.
A miracle of sorts considering other challenges authorities are grappling with, not least the Covid-19 pandemic and development aid/official development assistance (ODA) curtailments largely emanating from the illegal sanctions.
Despondency in the affected districts is rapidly being consumed by hope and optimism as communities in the affected districts pick up the pieces with the help of the State and other well-wishers.
Between 15 and 20 March, 2019, southern Africa was hit by a tropical cyclone, rated amongst the worst ever on the continent.
It left a trail of destruction in areas like Chimanimani and Chipinge in Manicaland and parts of Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces which faced unprecedented torrential rains for nearly a week.
Weather experts explained that this was a result of a tropical depression which originated on the east coast of Mozambique and swept through that country, Zimbabwe and Malawi as a category 2 storm.
It was moving at speeds nearing 170km per hour, triggering deadly flash floods, landslides and rock falls.
This happened at night when most people were not prepared for the unfolding events.
Communities were simply vulnerable and could not organise themselves to move to safer ground as incessant rains pummelled the region for five days and nights.
President Mnangagwa promptly declared a state of disaster in the affected provinces and Government started mobilising resources for relief efforts.
The storm affected more than 270 000 people leaving 341 dead and many others missing up to this day.
Infrastructure destroyed or damaged included over 17 608 homes, 12 health facilities, water, sanitation and hygiene installations, 139 schools, 43 of which were temporarily closed.
In agriculture, more than 50 percent of land under maize and banana plantations were decimated as well as 18 income generating irrigation schemes.
At least 362 cattle and 514 goats and sheep, 17 000 chickens were lost whilst 86 dipping facilities were damaged.
Road infrastructure took a huge battering with above 90 percent of road networks in Chimanimani and Chipinge, cutting the two districts from the rest of the country and the world.
Bridges were swept away and more than 584 km of roads being damaged by rock falls and landslides.
Government estimated that Cyclone Idai destroyed nearly US$1 billion in buildings, road infrastructure and crops.
“I do not think we will witness such an event again in our lifetime in these parts. We had rocks the size of cars falling from the mountains.
“We have heard of climate change but I do not think there will be a repeat of this,” said Mr Simon Ngwaquazi, one of the few people still living in temporary shelters in Chimanimani town.
“We are still waiting for help but we acknowledge the efforts of the Government as many families have been moved to houses in areas such as Chayamiti,” he said.
Overall, the community here is happy with restoration of livelihoods for Cyclone Idai victims which includes a full scale return of health services and restoration of damaged infrastructure.
Government has also expedited the construction of permanent homes for Cyclone Idai victims who were still living in a temporary camp with others now occupying the new houses at Runyararo, formerly West End.
Headman Sydney Mukondomi, thanked the Government for its sterling efforts.
“We are very happy that we are now getting essential medical services after more health centres were set up by the Government.
“It is unfortunate that some people are not taking advantage of the health services provided by Government citing religious beliefs.”
“More health posts that were created enabled us to avoid travelling long distances and the rehabilitation of roads has made it easier for people to access various services. We are really grateful that the Government has prioritised these restorations,” said headman Mukondomi.
Acting District Medical Officer for Chimanimani, Dr Donatas Mugari said they were now providing health services to relocated people.
He said they were also offering expanded programme on immunisation services across the district and efforts were being made to equip some temporary health post as permanent clinics.
“We set up some temporary health posts which attended to those affected by the Cyclone and some of them have not been closed.
“Plans are that we build some structures at these places so that we have more clinics to bring health services closer to people,” Dr Mugari adding that new settlements like Runyararo now had health facilities like Chayamiti Clinic.
“After cyclone Idai we had a challenge most people were traumatised including health staff so we managed to get psycho social support from our head office,” said Dr Mugari.
Sister in-charge at Ngorima Clinic, Juliet Ngadziore acknowledged the importance of psycho social support from mental health nurses and doctors provided by the Government after many people were traumatised by the cyclone.
She said they were now operating at full scale covering all the ailments they should attend for their designated 11 775 target population.
Satellite clinics like Hlabiso and Saziya covering the same target population were also operating, which also boosted immunisation against Covid-19 and that of children.
Government has been the major actor in a multi-organisational response aimed at restoring normalcy to communities in the affected areas.
Apostle Alec Munenge of the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (Chitungwiza branch) last weekend visited Chimanimani district of an assessment mission and pledged to avail residential stands to some of the affected people still living in temporary shelters.
“We need to support Government in the restoration of livelihoods. We really appreciate what has been done and we will play our small part,” said Apostle Munenge.
One of the would-be stand beneficiaries Mrs Precious Gurure said: “All other services have been restored by the Government. Our life will get back to normal once we finish building our family home.”
Ms Jennifer Mahembe said the rapid response of the Government to the Cyclone Idai challenge was very commendable adding that people’s lives were generally back to normal.
“It is very comforting when you know that you have a Government capable of solving problems for its citizens. Mootitaurirawo Harare yo kuti tinobonga (Pass the word to authorities in Harare that we are thankful).”