A year after Cyclone Idai, displaced Zimbabweans still in make-shift shelters

Thursday March 19 2020

A woman stands outside a tent at a camp for people displaced in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 28., 2019. PHOTO | REUTERS


A year after a deadly cyclone swept through southern Africa, killing hundreds and ripping apart homes, thousands of victims in Zimbabwe are still living in temporary shelters as the country struggles to finance reconstruction efforts.

Cyclone Idai, one of southern Africa’s worst weather-related disasters, displaced tens of thousands of people in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi in March last year.

It killed nearly 700 people in Zimbabwe, with several bodies being washed into neighbouring Mozambique.

It also destroyed infrastructure such as roads and bridges in eastern Zimbabwe, disrupting economic activities.

Ms Martha Mutasa from Ngangu township in Chimanimani—the worst hit area in eastern Zimbabwe—fears that the victims of the disaster have been abandoned by both the government and donors.

Ngangu was flattened by the food waters and authorities want to set up a new township as the area is prone to flooding.


“I lost my husband and two children during the floods after our house gave in and they were washed away,” said a sobbing Ms Mutasa.

“Their bodies were never recovered…I only survived because I was away in Harare at the time and when I came back, I discovered that I had lost everything.”

Ms Mutasa is among thousands of Chimanimani residents living in a makeshift house in the small town, awaiting relocation.

She said although she felt safe at the camp and donors provided them with food, those in the camp were desperate to get houses.

The International Organisation for Migration said 24,000 families displaced by the floods were still without permanent shelter.

Pardon Phiri, who lives in one of the tents at Ngangu with his family, said the just ended rain season traumatised them.

“Our tents are now worn out…The rain season was a nightmare for us because we feared a repeat of what happened last year,” Mr Phiri said.

“The children around the camp were traumatised because most of them saw people being washed away by the floods last year and houses being destroyed.”

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said it had been providing relief to women and children in eastern Zimbabwe who were displaced by the cyclone.

“In Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai exacerbated the precarious humanitarian situation affecting 270,000 people, including 129,000 children,” Unicef said in a statement to mark the first anniversary of the disaster.

“Unicef has provided relief to children and women through providing vaccinations, child protection services, access to safe water, basic education, and treatment to those living with HIV/Aids in the affected areas in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province.”

Alternative land

The government promised that the more than 800 people from Ngangu township alone, who lost their houses during the flooding, would be given alternative land to rebuild their lives. However, authorities are yet to deliver on their promises.

Amnesty International said many of the affected people in Zimbabwe are still living in makeshift tents in camps set up by the UN Refugee Agency.

“Tens of thousands of people are still homeless...Children are out of school and healthcare facilities are yet to be fully rebuilt,” Amnesty International said.

Donor fatigue has been blamed for the slow response, with less than half of the $450 million needed for relief and recovery in Zimbabwe and Mozambique having been raised.

Only $40 000 had been committed by the first quarter of this year.

 “Given the dire situation in the countries and the responsibilities for the climate crisis, wealthier states and multilateral donors need to pledge more than they have done and ensure money reaches those who need it,” Amnesty International said.

ZimRights, a local lobby group, blamed the slow recovery process on corruption.

“It is unfortunate that some Cyclone Idai survivors in Chimanimani, Nyamatanda and Garikai areas are still living in worn-out tents against harsh weather conditions,” it said.

“This is despite the fact that millions of ‘real dollars’ have been poured into these communities…[the dollars] vanish into a bottomless pit of corruption and state sanctioned treachery.”

ZimRights said it monitored the use of $24 million promised by the African Development Bank for the recovery efforts in eastern Zimbabwe.