Zimbabwe: Nation Remembers Cyclone Idai Disaster

Dozens of houses and state infrastructure were destroyed or damaged.
14 March 2020

On March 15 last year, the nation woke up to news that the dreaded Cyclone Idai had devastated Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in Manicaland Province, and caused minimum damage to other districts in Masvingo Province.

No one had enough information on the extent of the damage since all communication with Chimanimani had been cut off.

The only thing everyone outside the district knew was that homes had been destroyed and people had died.

It was only later in the day when bits and pieces of information began to flow and the magnitude of the disaster slowly began to emerge.

The death toll began to rise from the three confirmed cases at the Catholic run St Charles Lwanga Seminary School where two learners and a security guard had died.

Phone calls from survivors began to come through, some crying for help as they were stuck chest-deep in muddy waters, others were marooned on mountains and others were still looking for their loved ones.

No immediate help could reach these people because only air transportation could bring in the help, but the rains made it impossible to fly into Chimanimani.

Although help finally came, recovery efforts were hampered by big boulders that had rolled over whole villages.

Kopa had become one big river where more than 200 people once lived, Peackock Business Centre where 16 shops used to be was reduced to a big open space.

Ngangu was filled with rubble and boulders where houses used to stand.

Almost 400 people were reported dead and a year later many others have not been accounted for, others swept all the way into Mozambique where some burials took place.

Bridges, roads, homes and companies were extensively damaged.

As the country prepares to mark the first anniversary of the disaster tomorrow, a lot of recovery efforts have been made.

In terms of infrastructure, significant work has been done to repair damaged bridges and roads.

So far, more than $236 million has been channelled towards different road rehabilitation projects in the district.

Government has also partnered with development partners to restore the livelihoods of the victims.

According to Agritex, farmers have received support towards the 2019/2020 agricultural season through various input support programmes.

As a result, yields are expected to increase from last season.

Chimanimani district Agritex officer Mr Shupai Majee said in terms of reclaiming the gullies created by the cyclone, Poret and Bird Life Zimbabwe have come in with support towards reforestation.

"We have been trying to rehabilitate the areas that were affected by the cyclone," he said.

"Poret assisted us to raise some nurseries which we used to reclaim gullies around Ngangu area and we planted an excess of 2 500 trees.

"Bird life Zimbabwe was mainly focussed on rehabilitating the eastern side in Chikukwa with fruit and indigenous trees in gullies around that area. So far we are in excess of 1 500 trees that were planted there."

In the education sector, there has been tremendous support from corporates that have adopted schools that were affected by the cyclone.

Chimanimani district schools inspector Mr Andrew Chikwange said most infrastructural works were at an advanced stage, although there was still need for more learning materials in the schools.

In the health sector, normalcy has returned to all health facilities that were destroyed.

"The most extensively damaged was Mutsvangwa Rural Health centre, whose whole roof was blown away," said Manicaland provincial medical director Dr Munyaradzi Mukuzunga.

"The roof has been replaced and refurbished. The facility was repaired with funding from the provincial civil protection unit."

Although there has been a lot of progress in the infrastructure and land reclamation, there is still more that needs to be done for the people displaced by Cyclone Idai.

The victims, who were housed in camps at Kopa business centre and in Ngangu, are still living in tents.

They are yet to be moved to permanent homes although Government has identified land in Nedziwa for their relocation.

Those who spoke to The Herald this week said staying in tents for a year was not a good thing and pleaded with Government to move them as soon as possible.

"It's been a year now and we are still in tents," said Ms Laina Sithole at Arboretum camp in Ngangu. "The life we are living here is not good and I am willing to move to Nedziwa as long as it means I am out of these tents.

"We are pleading to Government to give us some land as soon as possible."

This is the sentiment expressed by most people in the tents - they want to lead normal lives once more.

It is imperative that as the country remembers the day that Cyclone Idai ravaged Manicaland and other parts of the country, authorities need to re-look some of the interventions that are needed to restore life back to normal for the victims and restore their dignity.

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