Spare a thought and helping hand for Cyclone Idai victims and survivors

WITHOUT taking much from the continued preparations and steps to stop, and curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid -19), whose spread in the region, already seems like an eventuality. Some have even suggested it’s not a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘when’ the virus would filtrate within the country’s borders. However, that’s a story for another day, as suddenly, the nation has been seized with Covid -19’s imminent threat, while in the process forgetting the tens of thousands, who are homeless and languishing in poverty after the horrendous Cyclone Idai, unfortunately swept parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Its now 12 months after Cyclone Idai reared its ugly head in parts of southern Africa, human lives have been lost, not to mention livestock, crops, communication and road networks, including vital bridges, have been destroyed, leaving millions stranded, as some areas have become inaccessible.

According to a recently published Oxfam briefing, ‘After the Storm’, 100.000 people in Mozambique and Zimbabwe are still living in destroyed or damaged homes and makeshift shelters, while critical infrastructure including roads and water supplies, and schools are yet to be repaired.

The report gives statistical data that melts the heart, as a reported, 9.7 million people across the 3 countries (Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe) are facing starvation as a result of the cyclones, floods, drought and localized conflict.

Tens of thousands are still living in destroyed or damaged homes or makeshift shelters – 43.352 people were displaced in Zimbabwe and 93.516 people were living in temporary shelters in Mozambique at the end of last year.

Etched in the marginal zones of border towns of the respective nations mentioned above, survivors have had to deal with the inter-twined and complex realities on the ground, such as, drought, flooding and deep rooted poverty with a few humanitarian organisations like Oxfam, governments and a handful of other private and public organisations making frantic efforts to feed the millions in these and other parts of the continent and globe at large, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye.

The words of Oxfam Regional Director for Southern Africa Nellie Nyang’wa clearly outline how dire the prevailing situation is on the ground.

“Cyclone Idai was anything but a natural disaster. This tragedy was fuelled by the climate crisis and super charged by poverty, inequality and failures of national governments and the international community.

“The people of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are trying to piece their lives back together in the face of huge challenges. Politicians in the region, and across the globe, need to match their commitment,” she said.
Shocking statistics from a statement by Oxfam show that the flow of funds is also slowing with just US$42.000 pledged, since the beginning of the year.

The organisation also states that there has been a slow and patchy international humanitarian response, which has also hampered recovery, as less than half of the requested US$450.2m humanitarian funding by the UN in the wake of the cyclones has been committed, to date.

According to Oxfam, in Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai left 270.000 people in need of humanitarian assistance including 129.000 children, while close to 17.000 households were displaced – many as a result of landslides that wiped away entire villages or neighbourhoods.

An estimated 1.4m hectares of arable land – accounting for one third of national agricultural production – was destroyed, affecting 50.000 mainly smallholder farmers and exacerbating already high levels of malnutrition.

In Chimanimani District, 865 kilometers of road were damaged with – 95 percent of the road network and at least 10 critical bridges damaged or destroyed, while 294 health facilities were damaged, and an estimated 971 schools were damaged or destroyed, affecting more than 60.000 school children.

However, all being said and done, it is everybody’s responsibility to give a helping hand to the affected communities. It is not only the government’s of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, who should play an active role, but even the big conglomerates, who have done more harm than good to the environment, through the stages of industrialisation, which makes this case a global concern.

There are many hazards taking place in the globe, but there are communities that are paying the price for others’ deeds, which have a long term negative impact on the environment, hence the call for concerted efforts to assist those affected by natural disasters.

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