29 March 2019

Zimbabwe: Manicaland Faces Food Deficit After Drought, Cyclone Idai

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau

Manicaland Province has sent out an SOS for food assistance for its people following a poor cropping season which was exacerbated by Cyclone Idai-induced rains that destroyed the remaining crop.

The greater part of the province was affected by a long dry spell, with some parts of Buhera and Chipinge receiving very little to no rainfall prior to the flooding that occurred two weeks ago.

Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said the province needed to urgently come up with strategies to feed its people until the end of next season.

"We had a bad agricultural season and it has been worsened by the cyclone which flattened the crops in the field," she said.

"We expect the yields to be poor in some areas while in others they will not harvest anything.

"Manicaland needs a huge rescue package in terms of food. We will still need to assist people with food until the next season."

Dr Gwaradzimba said there was need to ensure that victims of the cyclone were equipped with means to become self-sufficient again.

"We are also looking at the issue of sustainability," she said. "We don't want our people to be dependent forever. We want to empower them by giving them fishing rods so that they can fish and not just wait for handouts."

Last month, Agritex estimated that the province was likely to produce only 25 percent of the expected maize yield from the 230 000 hectares planted in the 2018/2019 season due to the El Nino-induced drought that was being experienced.

The majority of the crop had already reached wilting stage in ares falling under Natural Region 4 and 5 that include Buhera, Bocha, some parts of Nyanga and Chipinge.

Agritex head for Manicaland Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa early this week said about 80 percent of the crop that had survived the dry spell was destroyed, leaving the province with a deficit in terms of food supply.

Chimanimani and Chipinge districts were the most affected areas but Mutasa, Buhera and parts of Makoni districts also recorded losses.

There is speculation that more than 1 300 livestock was also swept away by Cyclone Idai floods.

Meanwhile, Government has plans to rehabilitate Chipinge and Chimanimani hospitals to improve the provision of primary health care in the province.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, who toured the two facilities after the province was hit by Cyclone Idai two weeks ago, said it was imperative for all health facilities to be able to cope in the event of a disaster.

"We want to make sure we revamp the health care centres here. All the clinics must be spruced up," he said. "I toured Chipinge Hospital, and I saw that it needs a lot of revamping.

"We will send a team of our infrastructure guys who will make an assessment of this whole area in terms of rehabilitation."

Dr Moyo said the rehabilitation of health facilities was part of the new dispensation's vision to provide health care to all citizens.

"The new dispensation wants to see a primary health care system that is well supported from the village facilities, to the districts and up to provincial level, with everybody accessing health services without any problems," he said.

Dr Moyo said Chimanimani Rural Hospital was ill-prepared to cater for emergency situations when the cyclone hit the district because it had limited capacity.

The hospital attended to more than 150 cases, but had to refer the majority of them to Chipinge and Mutare as it had little capacity to attend to all cases.

"I know you did the best you could under the circumstances," said Dr Moyo. "I want to applaud the good work that you all did with limited equipment and personnel. It is good that I have seen this facility and its need for rehabilitation.

"We want to improve it so that we can have better buildings. The next time I come here, you should be having a working X-ray machine, modern beds, proper shelves in the pharmacy and eventually a new pharmacy."

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