Untold horrors of Cyclone Idai

CYCLONE Idai has come and gone but its scars are there for all to see on the physical terrain, the hundreds of graves in Chimanimani and Chipinge, destroyed infrastructure like roads and bridges, whole shopping centres, police stations as well as schools among others. Oh yes, schools, leaving some children with the clothes they were putting on the night when disaster struck.

Chief among the impacts of the cyclone were, of course, the over 350 deaths that have been recorded, making it one of the worst disasters to have hit the country in recent history. 
The number of deaths has obviously been understated as several others are still to be found.

For survivors, the trauma of what they went through and what they witnessed will no doubt last their whole lifetimes. 
Up to now, there are some families who have not been able to know the whereabouts of missing relatives. Somehow, they may find it very difficult to find closure since these disappearances will remain unsolved.

Some who were lucky to escape the ravaging floods and were on chronic medication had their medical records as well as medication for different ailments swept away by the furious Cyclone Idai floods. What it means is they have already absconded on their medication and may need professional interventions to put their lives back on track.

Besides the food, shelter and clothing that every victim of Cyclone would need, they need to see doctors urgently who will be able to give them professional advice on how to proceed with their situations and conditions. Therefore, the aid agencies working in the affected areas must also look at the health concerns of the affected communities.

For instance, there were people on the life-prolonging anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and would need urgent assistance in the form of medical examinations and treatment. 
Of course, their records may have disappeared with the stock of medication they had, but doctors may investigate their current conditions and be able to tell how they can proceed from then on.

Those with heart conditions, tuberculosis (TB), hypertension, diabetes, various cancers among other conditions need urgent assistance. Quite a number of such victims may have suffered other psychological repercussions and injuries that may have diverted rescuers’ attention from their other conditions.

Those offering assistance must probe whether they were not taking medication for any chronic condition so that their situations can be helped earlier. Chronic health conditions get complicated more when the sufferer fails to adhere to prescribed medication and in the absence of records, medical personnel can find it very difficult to manage them.

With TB, there is a strain which health workers have been battling to contain — multi drug-resistant TB. During pre-commemorations to mark World TB Day in Bulawayo, Health ministry Aids and TB Unit deputy director Charles Sandy said community involvement in the management of TB was very critical as a strategy to contain the disease. Perhaps the same strategy could be used, especially where community health workers are available, they may have information on those who are on chronic medication.

“Community TB care as a strategy is complementing the health system approach of service delivery where people are getting their services from professional health workers.

“We know that some communities in general have limitations of access to our health facilities. The community component bridges that gap ... because the community’s health responses can help ... presumptive TB patients and refer them to a health facility for confirmation of diagnosis,” said Sandy.

Community health workers, according to Sandy, are very crucial in bridging the gap between communities and health facilities. Such health workers could provide information on those with chronic illnesses in their communities for further management and care.

It is important that as Zimbabweans respond to Cyclone Idai, they must also remember the plight of those survivors who were on medication for chronic illnesses to help them through since absconding will cost them in a big way.

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