24 April 2019

Zimbabwe: We See Dead Relatives, Cyclone Survivors Narrate Horrific Nightmares

Photo: Columbus Mavhunga/VOA
South African police sniffer dogs have been sent to parts of Zimbabwe hit by Cyclone Idai to help look for those who are missing and presumed dead.

Following Cyclone Idai induced floods that ravaged Chimanimani and parts of Chipinge last month, some survivors say they are living a nightmarish life as they have started seeing their missing loved ones in their dreams.

Their stories sound like a script from a horror African movie. At first, one can choose not to believe them but after seeing the emotions when they explain their situation, one could only but sympathize with the psychological trauma they have been living with since their communities were hit by the worst cyclone in decades.

Some of them have put the blame on the mass burials which they feel robbed their loved ones of a decent burial whom they say are coming back demanding exhumation.

While it is culturally right to bury the remains of the dearly departed close to the homestead or under the guidance of the family, those who were swept away by the ravaging cyclone were buried hundreds of kilometres away from their relatives.

Lilian Muzimba, who now stays at Chimanimani Hotel, after her home in Ngangu was destroyed, told 263Chat that she lost three relatives, two males and one female but two weeks after their burials, she is having nightmares as they "visit" her in her dreams.

"Every night I'm dreaming of my departed relatives, they are yearning for help. My nephew, who is one the several people who were buried in these mass graves, appears to me too often asking to be given a proper burial," she said, trying to control the tears from her already teary eyes.

"I have also seen my niece in my dreams, she was crying, telling me that all will be well," she added before breaking down.

Lilian added that she feels guilty that she did not have a chance to give the relatives a proper and deserving burial as well as a proper goodbye.

She wants to go back home and give her relatives a proper burial.

But looking at the damages to the dwellings it is estimated that the people will remain in the camps for the next four to six months, the Zimbabwe United Nations Association said in its report.

As of to date 4073 people remain displaced in Chimanimani.

Munyaradzi Maumbe, who lost parents and three of his four siblings, says his mother appears to him constantly in his dreams telling him to get hold of the elders and arrange for proper burials.

"My mom and dad were buried in the same grave, while two of my siblings shared a grave and the other one was buried together with a neighbour," he narrated.

"However, this must not have gone well with the ancestors as my mom always tell me to get hold of our elders. Sometimes I think it's not a dream, I feel like she is in the same room and it scares me a lot," he said as he stared into the heavens above.

Young children are getting scared by the day as the stories of ghosts lingering around the graveyard, which is close to the homes, continue to haunt them.

Government has insisted that there were no mass burials but just close to the Ngangu Township, there are graves where at least two bodies were buried in the same grave.

Some survivors have become so paranoid about the rains. Every time they see the rains coming, they start thinking of the worst they endured.

"I don't go out in the rain anymore. I don't like the wind. It's scary," said a 16-year-old young man.

Aid workers say survivors are showing higher levels of anxiety.

The psychological scars are less visible than shortages of shelter or food, but no less important, aid workers say.

"Everyone was saying how resilient people Chimanimani are," an aid worker from the MSF said.

"While that is true, there are still people who haven't gone through the process of fully grieving and understanding what happened and they need psychological support," he added.

After close to four decades of dictatorial rule under former president Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's rudimentary health care system has little capacity for handling trauma victims.

Aid groups are trying to fill the gaps but with the onset of monsoon and the upcoming of winter, there are chances of the situation deteriorating further.

ChimanimaniCyclone IdaiNgangu

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