Rains expose weak disaster response

MASVINGO - The current spell of heavy rains has woefully exposed government’s shoddy disaster preparedness, rights groups have said.

Early warning systems have failed and authorities have failed to mobilise relief goods, or prepare themselves for likely water disasters if the rivers swell.

Jonathan Chifuna, the Zimbabwe Meteorological Department’s principal meteorological officer, said this week that although the rains were set to continue, they were expected to subside in intensity.

The rains, that have officially claimed 11 lives so far, have exposed the appalling lack of contingency plans by authorities in the wake of the unfolding disaster.

Relief experts, monitoring Zimbabwe’s disaster preparedness, are wary of the national-level capacity to deal with floods and other disasters as they unfold.

Rights groups say government seems to have learnt nothing from last year’s Tokwe-Mukorsi disaster.

In February 2014, the Zimbabwe National Army, with help from aid agencies and foreign governments, relocated 3 000 families from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam basin to the Chingwizi Transit Camp in Mwenezi District of Masvingo province.

The displaced people were not consulted about their relocation site, as required under international standards, and were later forced from the transit camp onto plots.

Thomas Mbetu, a board member of the Masvingo United Residents and Rate Payers Association, (Murra), said it was disturbing that government had once again turned to well-wishers to assist victims as if they learnt nothing from the Tokwe-Mukorsi flood basin disaster.

“It shows government learnt nothing and forgot nothing during last year’s Tokwe-Mukorsi floods disaster, that why it has extended its begging bowl to NGOs, civil society and other well-wishers for help,” Mbetu said.

He added that like the Tokwe-Mukorsi disaster — civil society groups have had to rescue the beleaguered government in feeding and evacuating victims because the ill-equipped Civil Protection Unit (CPU) had no capacity.

Arnold Batirai, the programmes manager for the Young Zimbabweans for Socio Economic Freedom, said government has once again been found wanting.

Lameck Betera, principal administration officer at Civil Protection Unit, told the Daily News this week that his organisation was mobilising other organisations in an inter-agency rapid assessment of the floods to ascertain the extent of the damage caused.

Betera said there was also need for the weather conditions to improve first to allow rescue operations while they also mobilise resources.  “We will come up with a report next week,” he said.

“We have a problem of access to areas that faced floods that is why we encouraged people in affected areas to be mindful of going to higher ground.

“Even if the Air Force provides helicopters, they do not fly in bad weather. It is a very expensive process; we will never have adequate resources and we work with partners. Some 4x4 vehicles could not access some areas in Muzarabani. At least the rains have stopped and roads can be clear and we will be able to access some areas.”

So far, the death toll stands at 11 although several more deaths may have gone unreported.

The floods have also left over 800 families homeless with the worst affected provinces being Mashonaland West and Central.

Grace Chirenje, founder and director of Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building,  said government officials were concentrating on enriching themselves while failing to invest in disaster preparedness.

“This happens every year, so why are we not prepared for these floods yet we can afford expensive top-of-the-range cars, holidays and so on for some very few privileged? Let us be responsible leaders,” she said.

Comments (2)

Only if such floods cause or unearth gold, diamonds or any valuable mineral of some sought in these flooded areas then you will see how prompt, and quick reaction zanu pf government is.

X-MAN IV - 7 January 2015

The above article shows that the writer does not appreciate how DRM systems operate world wide. It is not the duty of government alone to respond to national disasters so appealing to NGOs and international organizations was the correct thing to do. In fact Zimbabwe's Civil Protection Unit, which is coordinated by the Ministry of local government, comprises members from many government departments, NGOs and international development partners. While it is good to criticize government actions for the sake of improving them, it must never be done from a position of ignorance.

Musoni - 8 January 2015

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