Zimbabwe: Communities struggle to rebuild their lives following devastating floods

3 April, 2014
March 2014, Masvingo, Zimbabwe: Fadzai Tshuma lost her home when heavy rains flooded the Tokwe and Mukorsi rivers in February. She and her family are now living at a relocation site in Chingwizi in rural Masvingo Province. Credit: OCHA/Matilda Moyo
March 2014, Masvingo, Zimbabwe: Fadzai Tshuma lost her home when heavy rains flooded the Tokwe and Mukorsi rivers in February. She and her family are now living at a relocation site in Chingwizi in rural Masvingo Province. Credit: OCHA/Matilda Moyo

Fadzai Tshuma was woken by her neighbours’ screaming in the early hours of 3 February. Awake and in a panic, she then heard the sound of water rushing through her village and into her home.

“I realized it was futile to try and save my property, so I focused on making sure my children and I stayed alive,” said the 37-year-old widow.

Fadzai–a mother of four children and guardian to six of her sister’s orphans–lived in Ngundu, a rural part of southern Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province. Their home was close to the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam, a massive project that has been under way for 16 years and that will provide electricity for families across the country.

In early 2013, the Government announced plans for the phased evacuations of about 32,000 people from areas within the new dam’s basin or close to its catchment areas. But some evacuations were brought forward due to heavy rains at the beginning of this year, including those that flooded Fadzai’s home and village.

“We have nothing of our own”

Their home destroyed and their possessions lost, Fadzai and her 10 children trekked about 15 km to a transit site near the rural district of Gunikuni. From there, they were transported a further 100 km to Chingwizi, where the Government had made land available for families to start anew.

Fadzai and her family had to build a new home from scratch. They cleared land and cut down trees so that Fadzai could fashion poles to erect a tent.

About 2,500 families displaced by the flooding are now in Chingwizi. Humanitarian organizations are working alongside the authorities and the private sector to help people rebuild their lives. Aid groups have provided emergency shelter, food, drinking water, health-care services, a school, toilets and basic relief supplies.

“The clothes on my family’s backs, the food we eat and the utensils we use are all from other people,” said Fadzai. “We have nothing of our own. How can that be a life?”

More resources needed to meet remaining needs

Food, shelter and water are the most critical needs for the families in Chingwizi.
The UN and its humanitarian partners have appealed for US$4.5 million to support people displaced by the flooding. But so far, aid groups have only raised $1.5 million, leaving a gap of $3 million.

“The needs are immense, but we have limited resources,” said Modibo Traore, the Head of OCHA’s Zimbabwe office. “Without additional financial support, it will be difficult to help these families get back on their feet.”

In the weeks immediately following the floods, local businesses and community groups provided a steady supply of food. But these supplies are now dwindling, and rations have been cut to help spread them further. Local authorities say that people will need food assistance between now and the next harvest, which is not until March 2015.

Only 1,600 of the roughly 2,500 families in Chingwizi have received tents or tarpaulins. Access to potable water is also a challenge, but aid agencies and the private sector are delivering potable water via trucks, drilling boreholes and pumping it from nearby water sources.

Limited resources are also undermining the efforts to provide the children of Chingwizi with an education. The camp’s school, which has nearly 2,000 students, has a critical shortage of teachers and supplies. Only 22 of the 47 primary-school teachers and six of the 10 secondary-school teachers it needs are on site. And only 16 of the 46 tents that are needed for classrooms have been donated.

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