The Herald (Harare)

17 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Flooding Needs Everyone's Contribution

editorial

Flooding has become a common phenomenon in the country and every year there are areas were people are maimed or killed, while others are left homeless with their sources of livelihood - crops and cattle wiped out.

There are reports of massive flooding in areas such as Tsholotsho, Middle Sabi and the Zambezi Valley every year that leave a trail of destruction.

Fertile lands are decimated and public infrastructure that promotes rural development such as schools, dip tanks and bridges among others are reduced to ruins.

We have noted that the human and material losses caused by flooding are so vast that they call for a multi-sectoral approach involving Government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to ameliorate suffering by mainly poor villagers.

We reported in this paper last week that more than 100 mourners, who included Central Vehicle Registry staff, were marooned by floods for four days in Tanda village in Headlands.

They were finally air-lifted by an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter from the village where they had been stranded since Saturday.

They were all taken to Mayo Business Centre where they were finally taken home in buses to meet their beloved ones.

The CVR staff members and mourners, who were travelling by bus, found out that a bridge they were supposed to cross had collapsed due to heavy rains.

The alternative route had flooded rivers and the Airforce of Zimbabwe was also assisting other people whose lives were under threat in Middle Sabi.

It is sad that the mourners, among them pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers who had left their children at home and chronic patients who had left their medication as they anticipated to return home on the same day, ended up staying out for four days.

We are saddened by the fact that the country has left the role of assisting marooned people and other disaster situations to the Air Force of Zimbabwe alone, yet common knowledge tells that they will not manage because they have other challenges.

As rightly disclosed by AFZ operations director Group Captain Alphious Gwata, the airmen deploy a helicopter to the area where there is immediate threat of human life.

It is against this backdrop that we call on well resourced Zimbabweans and some non-governmental organisations to join hands with Government and capacitate the Civil Protection Unit.

It will be an ideal situation that the CPU should have its own helicopters and others should come in to complement its efforts.

We also challenge some Zimbabweans with aircraft to also join Government when disaster strikes.

The Headlands case exposed the CPU as an organisation ill-prepared to handle any form of disaster situation and there is a need to revamp its operations.

If high profile people, including Government workers, are left out to suffer for four days, how about some villagers in remote parts of the country?

We also challenge the District Development Fund and some Rural District Councils to play their part and upgrade the countryside road network.

In case of bridges being swept away by heavy currents, there is no doubt that this can be answered by a good road network that links districts that enable people to take alternative routes no matter how long it might take to get to their destinations.

We cannot continue to lose lives because rescuers cannot get to the scene.

History has shown that most bridges are too low to the extent that even a small stream can see people being stranded.

We urge authorities to mobilise resources and build better bridges for these feeder roads.

In the health sector they say your health is your responsibility and like wise when travelling it is your responsibility to plan the journey.

It's sad to note that many people have died while trying to cross flooded rivers and vehicles carrying valuable goods have also been swept away.

The CPU should be lauded for urging travellers to first gather information about the weather patterns and infrastructural situation of places they intend to travel to before they set on a journey, as heavy rains continue to pound the country.

Civil Protection Unit director Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira said most people were blindly embarking on journeys, only to be trapped by either floods or collapsed bridges upon their return.

When people want to travel, they should seek advice from the local police of where they intend to go.

The Meteorological Services Department and even the CPU will provide very useful information.

We therefore call on the Government to relocate people who live in areas that are flood prone, revisit the CPU and ensure it receives adequate resources if we are to save lives that may otherwise be wasted needlessly.

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