Upon arrival in Chimanimani, we are faced with devastation.
People are beginning to return to the places where they once had a life, not an easy life for many, but nonetheless, a life they could call their own. Now they rely on humanitarian assistance from agencies like GOAL and face the arduous task of rebuilding a home for themselves and starting the process to rebuild their lives once more. The physical damage is instantly shocking, whole communities have been destroyed, villages lie uninhabited, and what once were homes for families, and shelter for livestock, are left in ruins – it is hard to believe the life that once existed here. The storm and the torrential rain that followed the cyclone has stripped communities of their livelihoods, with floodwaters washing away any hope of harvest for the coming months. Food insecurity in this region was already an issue, now, with little hope of crop production this season, the future is very uncertain.
What will be more devastating than the visual damage throughout Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique is the psychological distress hundreds of thousands of people now face throughout the three countries. A large number of people are still declared missing and family members are embarking on journeys to search for loved ones as soon as roads begin to clear. Others we have met have told tales of digging through debris and rubble of their homes in search for their relatives. Sniffer dogs from South Africa have been assisting community members to search for their missing loved ones with the hope that they can afford them a decent burial.
“This will leave lasting wounds on our community. Our road, water systems have been damaged. Some have died and some are left crippled for life. It means people need to start a new life, which is not easy.”
Local Council Worker, Chimanimani
Distributing food and non-food items is only the beginning of our work here, the recovery period here will be extensive. We now fear an outbreak of cholera, as there have been 1,000 confirmed cases of the water-borne disease across the border in Mozambique. Sanitation needs and hygiene education are now a major priority, as well as delivering food items, right now. Our programme delivers water purification tablets, soap, bucket, and jerrycans to ensure this deadly disease does not reach the incredibly vulnerable communities work are working in Zimbabwe.
A young girl sits amongst the rubble
People must begin to rebuild their lives throughout Zimbabwe
What must be remembered about this terrible disaster is that it happened at an unexpected time, leaving families to flee their homes with no possessions at all and for many, in the middle of the night. We evaluated that immediate needs range from small, everyday items such as female sanitary products right up to small infrastructures to provide temporary shelters for families.
There are many challenges facing us now, and many more ahead. Flood waters have receded, but we still cannot access some areas meaning we do not know what to expect when we arrive there. This proves extremely difficult knowing there are people awaiting aid and medical care.
90% of roads in Chimanimani are still inaccessible, so we wait.
One local in the area told us of 15 shops nearby that were swept away in flash flooding with people trapped inside – now all that remains are fragments or the buildings. During our trip, we met many people who have lost their children and some searching for missing children under piles of rubble and rocks.
Help families in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai today!