27 March 2019

Zimbabwe: Census for Cyclone-Ravaged Communities

Photo: Columbus Mavhunga/VOA
Chimanimani people affected by Cyclone Idai.

Government will conduct a census using official records to ascertain the number of people who have been staying in communities that were affected by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and Chipinge. This comes as South Africa yesterday despatched a team of 12 people -- including police officers and sniffer dogs -- to Manicaland Province to help with rescue and recovery efforts being spearheaded by the Government.

Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba spoke about the census on Monday while apprising UNFPA representative Dr Esther Muia of the situation in the affected areas.

Dr Gwaradzimba said there was a large number of people who have not been accounted for since the disaster struck, making it difficult to rely on assumptions.

"We have got a number of people who died and it is very difficult to ascertain the exact number," she said.

"It is difficult to rely on assumptions, but for those that have not been accounted for we say they are missing until we have got evidence that they actually died because people are scattered and displaced.

"So at the moment we are still to carry out a census based on official records on the people who lived within a locality. That way, we would be able to establish whether someone died or not," she said.

Dr Gwaradzimba thanked individuals, organisations and other countries for their donations and support.

She appealed for more aid, saying there was still a lot to be done in terms of relief. Dr Muia said they were looking forward to receive accurate figures for them to ascertain the amount of assistance they could render to the victims.

"As a UN we really appreciate the leadership of the provincial administrator and that of the district administrator in coordinating this humanitarian response.

"Coordination is tough and it comes with its challenges. What is important is that we continue working with your leadership and we know we will succeed.

"As UN, as we stand ready to support, we really need accurate figures because when you hear that a pregnant has given birth by herself, we ask ourselves how many are out there and might have complications.

She added: "We have put staff on the ground starting today and every agency has its strength. We know under your leadership we will be able to reach out to your brothers and sisters who are out there."

Dr Muia and her team proceeded to Chimanimani and Chipinge where they were expected to spend two days assessing the impact of the cyclone.

After the meeting, Dr Gwaradzimba also received goods worth more than US$50 000 from ActionAid International and a consignment of goods from the United Arab Emirates.

The South African team, which is expected to start work today, is led by Mr Justine Colbert.

It will assist to recover trapped bodies, and distribute humanitarian assistance donated by Gift of the Givers Foundation in the form of wheelchairs, advanced life support machines, stationary for school children, blankets, clothes and food stuffs.

Briefing journalists yesterday soon after the team's arrival at the South African Embassy and before its departure for Manicaland, South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ambassador Mphakama Mbete said the team came under the umbrella of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, which has been working with the South African government over the years.

He said the team was coming in at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

"We have in our midst a big team from South Africa comprising of members from South African police who have come here to assist in the aftermath of cyclone Idai. They are coming here under the umbrella of the Gift of the Givers Foundation," he said.

"A few days ago the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said what is urgently needed in Zimbabwe is a rescue team and sniffer dogs to assist in recovering trapped bodies," he said.

"Many people have disappeared and indeed from time to time corpses of people are being found mainly on the Zimbabwean side but sometimes on the Mozambique side. I am very happy that team South Africa has finally sent a team of people to assist in this regard," said Ambassador Mbete.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Environment, Disaster Prevention and Management, told corporates earlier yesterday that the South African contingent will work with the ZRP and army units who are already in the area.

Minister Moyo, who was updating the corporates in Harare on tropical Cyclone Idai flood induced disaster, the key priority interventions as well as the immediate and short term requirements, said the coming in of sniffer dogs was critical especially when it is believed that a lot of people are still buried under mudslides and boulders.

"We cannot quantify how many people were in those areas in that particular day who were affected by the cyclone. We continue with our rescue operations endeavour and right now we are today expecting two teams of assistance of sniffer dogs who are able to sniff dead bodies," he said.

"Sniffer dogs are now sophisticated. They can sniff for gold, mbanje or other drugs but there are specially-trained ones which can sniff for dead bodies. We generally do not have them in Zimbabwe and therefore, we are getting assistance from our neighbouring countries and today we are going to receive two teams that are coming from South Africa. There will be four teams that will be deployed to work with ZRP and army units who are already in the area."

He said 329 people are missing but it was hard to quantify the actual number as there were artisanal miners in the area and some people who may not have been reported as missing.

"In Manicaland, the cumulative number of deaths is 179, burials (102), unidentified bodies buried (12), injuries (186), missing people (329), displaced (6 788), number of children affected (3 500), displaced refugees (2 000), number of casualties airlifted to Skyline (52), houses affected (7 703), food insecure population (40 064) and number of bridges damaged (11).

"We still have not accounted for all because we still have a large number that is missing and even from that large number which is missing, we think we are missing some who have not been reported. We suspect that those who are missing from families are buried under the avalanche of the mudslides which came from the mountains," he said.

He added: "Heavy stones have replaced what used to be residential areas. That is why we are suspecting that we still have a lot of people who are missing. We might mention that a headmaster is missing but we are not able to say how many were in that household."

Minister Moyo said one of the affected areas, Kopa Growth Point (Chimanimani) was a trading area for bananas hence a lot of people came to buy bananas from that area and they might also be missing since the disaster was sudden in terms of the impact it had.

He said artisanal miners who were engaged in those areas could also be missing.

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