Personal commentary

30.04.2019 Bringing inclusion to Cyclone Idai relief efforts

CBM meets with a family to asses needs in April 2019
The household of Moris Mayana in the Chipinge District has 15 members. Their living room was destroyed, and temporary shelter has been erected at the homestead. The mother of the household has a physical disability. The maize crop field was destroyed during the cyclone Idai. ©CBM

Maneru, makadii! (Good evening, how are you! in Shona.)

I have been in Zimbabwe for almost 20 days, and I am now entering the last week of my deployment here. We are staying mainly in Mutare, the capital of the Manicaland region, most affected by the Cyclone Idai. We have been working to make the project start as soon as possible; and, last week, we distributed food to more than 200 families in need. In the coming days, we will proceed with more distributions to reach other families we have identified.

We are engaging the community in the distribution process to make sure that the food they are receiving is in line with their preferences and what they are used to. That is particularly important because bringing back routine in eating habits supports people affected to better cope with the situation they are going through—that is a vital, initial step towards recovering from a trauma.

We also received substantial support from the community during the food distribution process. People were patient waiting their turn with no tension and no stress. People understand that we are here to help them, and this helps to smooth all the work we were doing.

What I’m experiencing here is the hope the people have and the willingness to move on, to leave what happened behind. It is not an easy process, but they are going through it with dignity. That is what inspires us.

When visiting different families, I remember hearing people say similar things:

“We lost everything.” 

“All my crops are gone, and I can’t feed all my family, my kids.”

“The cyclone destroyed our hope for the future. I have no more food and my house is completely destroyed.”

But now that they are receiving food for the month, I can see a flame in their eyes. Something is changing; they are starting to hope again. For sure, this is the first step, but probably the most important.

Just after the food distribution, the same people were saying:

“I am so happy that I have food in my house to eat and feed my family. We have been surviving on begging or handouts since the disaster strike.”

“My houses were destroyed by Cyclone Idai, and I moved in to stay with a brother burdening him more. I am contributing food to the household. I’m grateful.”

This resilience is, for me, the main reason why I’m doing this job! I can see the strength of these people, who lost everything from one day to another, but are ready to put themselves out there and start again to build their lives back as they were before. This is truly moving. 

Persons leave with food packages in April 2019

Food distribution in the Bikita District was conducted by Jairos Jiri Association and the Civil Protection Unit supported by CBM. Each household received mealie meal, rice, sugar, means, peanut butter and cooking oil. ©CBM


Along with the distribution of food, CBM will also provide rehabilitation services for people with disabilities that, due to the cyclone, have been injured or have lost their assistive devices (which often made persons independent and able to contribute to family life). Together with our rehabilitation officers, we are planning which areas we will target. We will organise outreach camps, and staff will travel around different rural areas that are difficult to access, going door-to-door to identify those who need rehabilitation services.

Finally, there is another, equally important piece of work that we are doing here. We are coordinating with other humanitarian actors to make sure that our intervention is not overlapping with what others are doing but is complementary to the services they are providing. For example, if we provide food to a family that lost their cooking utensils, we will make sure other agencies provide these cooking items. It is great to see how much different agencies work together to make things better, all with the same main objective.

In addition, we also want to bring our expertise in terms of inclusion, supporting everyone to make their work disability inclusive. To do this we are also engaging disabled persons’ organisations (DPOs) to bring real perspectives and experiences of people with disabilities to the table and support us in making this happen.

As CBM, we believe that change needs to come first through people with disabilities, and for that to happen, we will support and empower DPOs and be ready to step aside. Together, we are rebuilding, laying brick after brick to make this work more inclusive for all!

Son rides bicycle in front of his cyclone-damaged home

Zvaanoda Gwenzi’s family lost two houses (a kitchen and a 2-bedroom house), six indigenous chickens and two turkeys from Cycone Idai. Zvaanoda’s son has an intellectual disability and says the family’s greatest needs are food and shelter. ©CBM


Submitted by Emergency Project Officer Alberto Tonon, CBM.

Alberto Tonon, Emergency Response Officer from CBM