09.04.2019

Personal commentary

Bringing initial relief to those most in need post Cyclone Idai

CBM listens to community members

CBM emergency response officers listen to the needs of the local community members affected by Cyclone Idai. ©CBM

I’ve been in Zimbabwe for a few days now after arriving in the capital Harare. We moved immediately to the region hit by Cyclone Idai, near Masvingo, to assess the situation and identify the most affected areas where we will be providing support. 

We have spent a few days visiting people, house by house, speaking with them to understand what happened, how they have been affected, what the situation is and how we can support them to recover from the disaster. It is an essential exercise that we need to carry out to ensure that what we do is useful, in line with what the people really need, and not making uninformed assumptions.  

What is clear from the different visits is that people with disabilities are often left behind during the relief programmes, mostly because programmes are not aware of them. Inaccessibility of services and lack of communications are the main problems we identified in speaking with them. Including people with disabilities in all the stages of the response, from the planning until the evaluation, is the only way to make sure the response programme is inclusive. We, as CBM, want to ensure this happens; not only within our projects, but also within the projects of other actors—that’s why we advocate for an inclusive humanitarian response at local and national levels.

Cyclone Idai destroyed houses and most of the crops that are the main source of food for households in the south-eastern region of the country. Furthermore, for some time, the area had already been suffering from a drought that has now put the population in a situation of food insecurity. It is a crisis within a crisis.

I’ve seen this before. I was in Haiti after the Hurricane Matthew in 2017, and I spent a year in Bangladesh in the Rohingya Refugee camp where I was interacting daily with the people. However, in each disaster, it is always heart-breaking to see how communities can be left without any means of subsistence.

To combat this, we are working to make sure that the most at-risk families receive the first relief (a food package) in the coming hours as the first step of our support. A timely intervention is fundamental to make sure that these families can cope with the situation. 

These days, interacting with individuals who have lost everything has reminded me of the most basic of humanitarian principles: humanity. While doing this work, we are reminded that we are not working with numbers or beneficiaries that we must report on, but human beings, and we are here to serve and support them.

Tomorrow is another day where we can make the difference!

Submitted by Emergency Project Officer Alberto Tonon, CBM.

Alberto Tonon, Emergency Response Officer from CBM