Emergency response teams on high flood alert

HARARE - Instead of the joyful scenes that normally characterise the summer rains in Zimbabwe, the heavy downpour the country is experiencing since January 7 has brought misery to communities.

An estimated 4 475 people across the country have been affected, with their houses having either been submerged in water or destroyed.

The rains have caused major damage to agricultural lands, destroying maize crops (the main staple), as well as disrupting public services such as road transportation and education prompting organisations such as the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society to respond.

The main provinces requiring assistance are Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Masvingo and Midlands, according to humanitarian agencies.

Red Cross marketing and public relations officer Takemore Mazuruse said the organisation has activated its emergency and disaster response systems to address the present needs, at the same time preparing for eventual disasters and outbreaks like malaria, cholera and other water-borne diseases.

“As a disaster relief organisation, we have a mandate to complement government efforts in alleviating human suffering wherever it is found and however, it is caused. We are a member of the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) and we are currently working with other stakeholders from government in our on-going disaster and emergency response activities around Zimbabwe,” said Mazuruse.

The floods have heavily affected families and some of the stories make sad reading.

Four people died in Triangle when a dam wall gave in and the floods swept through a residential area while in Wedza, Biggy Hombarume 54, and his son, a form three student at Bonongwe Secondary School, drowned in a dam filled to capacity during a fishing expedition recently.

In Zaka East constituency, six people from the Maturi family died after being trapped in their collapsed houses while in Chivi district’s ward 24, five villages — Chikandigwa, Tsikisai, Jahwa, Cheka and Zifunzi  suffered losses.

The Chivi storm disaster, which occurred in the evening of January 15, affected 11 households.

Urban areas have not been spared from the disasters, with many losing their household goods and basic supplies to the incessant rains and flooding and the situation remains dire.

Reports and assessments by humanitarian groups show that Masvingo Province is the hardest hit.

Currently, Red Cross interventions towards improving the water and sanitation situation include providing tents, blankets, shelter, buckets, water purification tablets and black polythene to construct temporary squat holes, kitchen sets as well as food baskets for the affected families.

Red Cross said its field officers are working with CPU in assessing the situation while other volunteers are educating and preparing communities in flood prone areas about the impending disasters and how to monitor water levels. Provincial programmes manager for Masvingo Fungai Maregedze said they had done the necessary groundwork for a comprehensive response particularly in Chivi, Zaka, Bikita and Chiredzi districts.

“From the reports that we have received from district administrators for the affected areas and assessments that we have carried out on our own, many lives are in danger particularly given that the rains are not going to stop anytime soon,” said Maregedze.

“In some cases, homes have been completely destroyed exposing families to the rains and other eventualities. So far we have responded in Chivi, some parts of Zaka and Bikita while other assessed areas like Chikombedzi and Chiredzi district will also be getting assistance,” said Maregedze.

In Manicaland, the Red Cross has responded in Nyanga where families are staying in local schools following the destruction of their homes.

Water sources like the borehole at Nyangombe have been destroyed while others have been contaminated.

Red Cross volunteers and field officers are monitoring and assessing the situation in Chipinge, particularly around Checheche, Chibuwe and Kondo.

In Mutema district in Chipinge, tarpaulins, blankets, water purification tablets and black polythene for temporary latrine structures have been provided to affected families.

Red Cross “Action Teams” in Matabeleland North are assessing the situation in Tsholotsho, at the same time providing the required support to affected families.

As the woes mount, many are now praying for the rains to stop so that normalcy can return. - Mugove Tafirenyika

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