28 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Chitungwiza Blast Response, Way to Go

Photo: allAfrica.com


Emergencies often catch people unawares but in some cases prior broad warnings would have been given though many seldom pay much attention to such warnings. When drills are held at schools or companies to test emergency preparedness of institutions and try to improve their response systems, there are some who actually get annoyed that they were inconvenienced by the false alarm.

Who, however, could have been prepared for the disaster that hit Chitungwiza this week when five people died after a mysterious explosion at a house in Zengeza?

While the focus of many is still on what caused the explosion, it is quite critical that the affected people's lives get back to normal, since they cannot live in that mode of fear and anxiety forever.

It is against this background that we applaud organisations such as the Red Cross for being there for the victims of the blast and moving in with assistance a few days after the unfortunate incident.

In our edition last week, we reported that the Red Cross had started erecting temporary structures to house 34 people whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the explosion in Chitungwiza last Monday.

The Red Cross deals with emergencies and disasters around the world to alleviate the suffering of those affected and we believe their efforts should be complemented by other non-governmental organisations and even members of the public.

The question on many people's minds is how the affected people will be able to reconstruct their homes, and the more superstitious, if anyone would want to inhabit the reconstructed structure, especially where the original house where the explosion took place, was located.

It is all in order to ensure that the affected families have somewhere to stay for the time being.

However, it is important that they get permanent structures and we believe their neighbours and the rest of the country that has been gripped by the story of the explosion should play a part in ensuring that these Zengeza residents are assisted to rebuild their lives.

Authorities, especially the Chitungwiza Town Council, should ride on the outpouring of sympathy to mobilise residents and other stakeholders to contribute towards a disaster fund to assist the families rebuild their homes.

We understand that many people are still in shock and various organisations that have skills that could assist the affected should voluntarily provide a service to these people.

We believe the civil protection committee in Chitungwiza in conjunction with the local authority should play a leading role and it is our view that Zimbabweans would be willing to contribute to a properly constituted body with a clear mandate to restore normalcy to Ndororo Street in Zengeza 2.

This is the time that NGOs and churches that always preach empathy and giving assistance to the poor should stand up and be counted.

The same Red Cross that is giving assistance in Chitungwiza almost has its hands full in Beitbridge, Gokwe and other areas which have been hit hard by floods.

In the case of floods, the emergency was foreseen and warnings given though for some areas, such as arid Beitbridge, the warnings could have been laughed off since area was yet to receive meaningful rain this rainy season.

We believe it is in times of emergencies that a nation's unity is put to the test, when those with shelter would be expected to assist those whose houses would have been washed away.

We are encouraged that the Zimbabwe Council of Churches organised a cleansing ceremony at the site of the explosion yesterday as different arms battle to find answers to the mystery blast.

We welcome the counselling assistance by the pastors from various ministries and all those that have assisted in one way or another and urge those that will come for the prayers, as the pastors have pointed out, to bring something to help the affected families in Chitungwiza.

However, while the spiritual needs of the affected should be catered for, their shelter needs should also be addressed by the churches and other organisations.

If the spirit of togetherness pervades our land, we can even face the threat of more floods and whichever emergency with hope knowing that no community can ever be alone in its time of trouble.

This is the time to demonstrate that we are still in touch with our values as a people by coming to the aid of our brothers and sisters affected by the floods around the country and those struggling in the aftermath of the Chitungwiza blast.

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