22 March 2019

Zimbabwe: Cyclone Survivors Get Massive Support

While Zimbabwe's cash-strapped government was sluggish in its initial response to the devastating Cylone Idai before releasing RTGS$50 million and deploying the army to clear roads and rescue survivors, the international community, corporates, humanitarian organisations, well-wishers and churches have stepped in to provide urgent relief to victims in Chimanimani and Chipinge.

Cyclone Idai hit eastern Zimbabwe last Friday, claiming the lives of over 140 people while leaving a trail of destruction. Hundreds of people have been rendered homeless while many others are missing.

The cyclone also destroyed large parts of Beira in Mozambique while Malawi was also affected.

The European Union (EU), which has recently maintained its sanctions on Zimbabwe, announced a €3,5 million emergency aid package to help the country, Mozambique and Malawi. Most of the relief will go towards the purchase of medical supplies, food, water and temporary shelter. The bloc has also deployed a team of technical experts to aid rescue teams working in the affected areas after government only managed to deploy a rescue mission on Sunday, 48 hours after disaster struck. EU also launched a Copernicus satellite to detect areas which need urgent attention.

The Chinese embassy in Harare and Chinese business community on Wednesday also donated several foodstuffs, tents and water for the victims. The Chinese are mobilising resources to the tune of US$200 000. The US, which recently renewed its economic embargo on Zimbabwe, also contributed US$100 000 through relief agency, USAID, with pledges that it would boost its assistance to victims of the cyclone.

The American government has pledged more relief as it assesses needs. The United Nations (UN) has allocated US$20 million from its emergency response fund to ramp up the humanitarian response in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi while its agencies will produce an assessment report which details the help required. World Food Programme (WFP) country representative Eddie Rowe told the Zimbabwe Independent the UN agency will extend its assistance beyond June to ensure families recover from the El Niño-induced drought. The agency forecasts that the impact of the cyclone will be felt at least until March next year, with millions requiring food aid.

Britain has extended £6 million to affected countries, with a team of experts yet to determine how much Zimbabwe will receive, based on the devastation it has suffered.

According to British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson, UKAid will offer health, medical and nutrition supplies to affected communities in worst affected areas. Counselling services will also be offered to children traumatised by recent events. Tanzania also stepped in with a huge consignment of medical supplies. The consignment from President John Magufuli's government is part of the initial efforts to assist victims that were marooned or injured during the devastating cyclone which has been recorded one of the most deadly catastrophes to hit Zimbabwe.

South Africa, Namibia and Angola have also pledged support.

Religious organisations like the Presbyterian Church, Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, among others, this week also intervened with an assortment of donations ranging from food, medicines and blankets. Several companies and individuals also mobilised resources for the victims.

Two freight companies in London have offered to ferry donated goods for the Cyclone Idai victims. Air Freight Cargo Zimbabwe based in Warwickshire, United Kingdom, has donated its aircraft to airlift goods donated for Cyclone Idai victims. Touchstone Freight will also be ferrying gloves for the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative.

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