Picking up the pieces: Life after deadly floods

HARARE - After the heavy floods, loss of livestock and homes, some Matabeleland residents believe there is no place like home and they want to go back.

Flooding is one of the most common, costly and deadly natural hazards which affects and displaces the people of Chikwalakwala district, 40 kilometres from Beitbridge.

More than 100 families have been displaced since January and dwellers of two villages, Mapowu and Bala in the district, had to be airlifted to safer places, forcing them to leave behind the only place they have known as home.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday during a media tour of the affected areas, residents said they were reluctant to leave their homes.

“We don’t like staying in these tents but we have no choice. We left our lives in Mapowu, that is where are our ancestors are resting. That is where my father was born, I cannot just leave and decide to relocate,” said a 59-year-old resident who is a mother of six and takes care of five grandchildren.

Jennifer becomes emotional when she speaks about how she lost her livestock to the floods.

“Those beasts were my source and only sense of wealth, my bank. And for them to be swept away like that hurts me,” she said.

She lost five beasts in the January floods.

Moffatt Hlongwane, 39, said the only reason they agreed to live in the tents was because the rains had cut them off from the rest of the world.

“Our children could not go to school anymore; we could not access the clinic and shops. That is why we agreed to come and stay in tents. They said they will build us homes but they have not said when this will be done,” Hlongwane said, “We hear that the homes will be two rooms for each family.”

“Two, two ave mapiritsi here,” he jokes.

“Surviving will be hard because I lost my donkeys in the floods and these helped bring in income. Now I have a scotch cart but no donkeys to pull it. Life is hard especially if you are in a foreign land,” he said.

Maria Chauke, a young mother, said she does not like the tents and wants to go back to her hut where she used to sleep on a comfortable bed bought for her by her husband based in South Africa.

Heavy rains in mid-January causing floods affected and destroyed property in seven provinces.

According to the department of Civil Protection, 30 people died through drowning, collapsing structures or lightning, while some families lost food reserves and domestic animals.

Bridges and roads were also substantially damaged in some areas.

Mapowu’s village head, Willy Hlongwane, said the destruction of Bubi Bridge by the rains has affected a lot of trade and urged authorities and donors to channel funds to the bridge that links Chiredzi and Beitbridge.

The government has roped in United Nations agency World Food Programme to assist in the distribution of maize to vulnerable groups and orphans under the Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy programme.

WFP’s public information officer, Victoria Cavanagh said the agency is about to undertake the next round of food assessment monitoring which will determine if more food assistance is required.

“In areas that flooded, people’s access to food was affected mainly because of the collapsed bridges. It was almost impossible for local traders to bring food into their areas, and therefore even people with the means couldn’t buy. WFP’s food rations cushioned the month following the floods while people stabilised their other livelihood sources and started rebuilding,” she said.

International Red Cross Society provided tents as temporary shelter for the villagers while building material to build two roomed houses was donated by a non-governmental organisation called Help Germany.

According to WFP, 2 805 individuals still require emergency assistance of non-food items, water and sanitation and food in Beitbridge, Chiredzi, Tsholotsho and Nyanga districts.

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