On the 15th and 16th of March 2019, Cyclone Idai struck in Chipinge and Chimanimani districts (Manicaland Province) with some parts of the province less affected including Bikita district (Masvingo Province). Zimbabwe has experienced cyclones in the past such as Cyclone Dineo or Eline but they did not bring much destruction as Cyclone Idai. Cyclone Idai was more devastating with mudslides and misty weather, continuous rainfall making it more difficult for rescue operations and humanitarian workers to assist the affected populations. Infrastructure was damaged (such as bridges and roads) making it more difficult to access the affected areas. An estimated 270,000 people were affected with destruction to homes and livelihoods. There were over 170 reported deaths, with others reported missing and several injuries.
A number of humanitarian actors, individuals and organisations entered the provinces to provide humanitarian assistance in order to save lives and alleviate suffering. The government immediately activated the Provincial Civil Protection Unit (coordination arm in disasters) which set up various coordination committees to ensure an effective response.
One of the main challenges at the onset of the disaster were access to information affected population as a whole, in order to define the type of assistance required. Also, the capacity of humanitarian actors is always an issue in such disasters, considering that Zimbabwe had never experienced such a catastrophic cyclone.
But for many, it was difficult to even imagine how people with disabilities cope in such a situation and whether they were able to access the assistance they required. This is where we are well-placed; with our partners, CBM has implemented an inclusive response, providing food, assistive devices and supporting others to mainstream disability in their response.
In light of the disaster, my thoughts as a development worker are centred around inclusive disaster preparedness plans, e.g. establishment of accessible early warning systems and capacity building of communities to cope. Effective prepared plans will save more lives and minimise the impact. As with many humanitarian situations the disaster has also created an opportunity for CBM to engage with other key humanitarian actors and promote disability inclusion and mainstreaming.
The support provided by CBM will contribute towards the “build back better” and ensure that people with disabilities are more included in development and response in the future. As we continue to support the affected populations and provide humanitarian aid, our thoughts and prayers are with the families that lost their loved ones.