1 Aug 2014
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Fifty-one-year old Sarah Mupakati does not remember the last time she ate sadza, a cooked cornmeal. She opens her one-room tent which she shares with her five grown-up children - the corner that serves as her pantry is empty. It has been like that for the past month. The little she has been getting from barter trading is used up that same day. It is all too easy to understand her relief as she joins the queue to receive her first food rations from the World Food Program (WFP).

The food situation at Chingwizi Resettlement Camp had become dire, but thanks to a US$773,181 rapid response grant from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), WFP was able to provide food for four months to some 15,625 people displaced by flooding in Masvingo province located in the south-east of Zimbabwe.

Risk of flooding

Due to above-average rainfall across Masvingo between mid-January and early February 2014, river levels in the catchment area of the Tokwe Mukorsi dam rose rapidly, causing widespread flooding which prompted the declaration of a State of Disaster and the issue of a Government Appeal. Some 20,000 people were reported to be at high risk of flooding in the basin area upstream from the dam.

While there were initial fears of the dam bursting (which would have placed an additional 40,000 people at risk), repairs to the dam were undertaken and water levels dropped as the rains let up. It is estimated that more than a thousand hectares of farmland were inundated, leading to a loss of more than 700 tonnes of crops. As part of the dam construction project, a phased relocation plan was drawn up to resettle people from areas of risk by October 2015.

Four months 

At the start of the floods in early February, only 600 households had been relocated. The authorities subsequently relocated the remaining 3,125 households (15,625 people) to a designated resettlement camp at the Chingwizi section of Nuanetsi ranch some 120 kms away. Those moved were either affected or deemed at risk. Until June, food assistance was provided by well-wishers and charitable organisations but, as resources become more limited, food availability become a pressing issue. It was at this point that WFP stepped in.

“We’re very grateful to CERF for this valuable support,” says WFP Country Director Sory Ouane. “We just hope the government or other donors will be able to come on board after the four months.”

For Sarah, it is not certain when she will have a place to call home but, for now, she is just happy to be safe and have food for her family.