news in depth BY JOHN MOKWETSI
Tendai Gomba navigates the boulders that now sit on what used to be a house in Ngangu township in Chimanimani in the Eastern Highlands.
She speaks about the scars of the devastation that wiped off her neighbour’s family of three and had her own child in hospital for a fractured hand.
“This is a community that has been scarred and is still feeling the pain of those nights when Cyclone Idai swept all in sight,” Gomba said
“We lost everything from property to animals. We have died a little since then.
“The trauma is still visible in the way you see people moving around talking to themselves,” Gomba said with watery eyes that did not mask her state of mind.
Gomba’s was one of the lucky ones whose house still has a few rooms that remained standing.
She has found sanctuary in what used to be a bathroom. Placed in the bathroom is a small bed and scattered clothes.
“You must recognise that despite our pain, a lot has been happening to help the people of this community to rebuild,” Gomba said.
“The psychosocial support that we got helped us to start to live again and have hope for a better future.
“Mostly the counselling has helped children, who were in shock and did not feel like going back to school was still necessary.
“Some lost the core family in the cyclone, other families lost property that helped pay for their children’s fees. It was like the world stopped for them.”
Gomba has been helping the community by attending meetings conducted by Unicef, supported by partners that include Childline Zimbabwe and REPSSI and have been
on the ground in Ngangu to provide psychosocial support, bereavement support, recreation and trauma counselling.
“In our ubuntu, we know that a loss to one is a loss to all. This is the message that we have been receiving and we have also taken,” she said.
Five-year-old Takunda Sithole, who witnessed the death of many and the mourning of a community, is finally back at school after three months and is animated
His brother whom he stays with has left Chimanimani to look for a job. When the flooding happened, he was in Mutare, leaving Takunda alone.
Sithole, who is now back at school after being taken to a child friendly zone camp set up for displaced and traumatised children, was walking with a friend and
was clearly excited at the camera, expressed joy for having had a day in class.
“Our house was destroyed, and we are living with our aunt and uncle. My friend Brighton died because of the rain, but he is in heaven,” he said.
“I am back in school now because my uncle said if I want to be a doctor I should go to school. I want to be a doctor.
“I was also told this by people who came to uncle’s house that I should always go to school. We also played games at the camp with other children. I played a
policeman in our house game.”
Sithole and others are part of the people in Manicaland who have been reached and provided with critical WASH-related, HIV, nutrition, education, child
There have been school enrolment and community demand generation meetings at district level that have helped in behaviour change by many who had given up on
sending children back to school.
According to Chris Ngwerume, a Unicef child protection in emergency consultant, children like Sithole need the support to function fully after the devastating
events of Cyclone Idai.
“For child protection we have offered services for separated and unaccompanied children,” he said.
“These are children who have lost their parents.
“We helped by working with our partners to trace relatives who might then take them into their care.
“We have worked with organisations such as Child Protection Society and government through the department of social welfare to identify these affected children
and reunifying them with their relatives.”
Ngwerume said the most important activity was to provide psychosocial support to affected children and adults.
He said some people who decided to adopt the affected children had no parenting skills and they needed to be assisted.
“The psychological effect of the emergency on these children is something we look into with serious consideration,” Ngwerume said.
“Because of the impact of the emergency, some children and parents suffered psychosocial distress, so we provided this support through one on one psychological
“We have also done this through group sessions where we deal with a group of affected people and we try to address their concerns.”
Child-friendly spaces, through Childline and the department of social welfare were established to allow children to have recreational activities that
normalised their day to day lives.
“The outcome is that the activities have restored the resilience of the community. The interventions have prevented suicides, and negative coping mechanism
like violence. Families have been restored to be able to deal with their situation,” he said.
According to a situation report by Unicef’s Communication for Development office (C4D), an estimated 270 000 people (half of them children) affected by
flooding are in need of critical, life-saving support to enable them to recover from the impact of the floods caused by Cyclone Idai in all the affected
The flooding exacerbated an already deteriorating humanitarian situation with an estimated 5,3 million people, including 2,5 million children in need of
humanitarian assistance since the start of the year.
The ongoing emergency is taking place against a backdrop of a deep economic crisis and rampant hyperinflation, which has severe implications on the operational
cost of the response.
To date 256 040 people have been reached with information on HIV nutrition and hygiene.
Of major concern has been the water, sanitation and hygiene situation in most districts of Manicaland and Chipinge. In places like Bumba and Ngangu Unicef has
been active in making open defecation and education on general hygiene behaviours a priority to avoid opportunistic diseases like Cholera and Typhoid.
Odrie Ziro, Wash Emergency Deputy head of Projects of Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH) said they have seen a remarkable improvement and behaviour changes after they
trained 230 hygiene promoters to go into communities and holding camps for internally displaced people.
“Hygiene education has been important because of the immediate dangers that come with diseases like cholera. We have focused on communities and holding camps
namely Arboretum camp, Nyamatanda and Garikai where we have emphasised the importance of hand washing and drinking safe water. The impact has been that we have
not had major cases of opportunistic diseases.”
In addition, WHH provided Non-food Items and ablution facilities within camps.
Communities were taught how to use non-food items by village health workers.
The organisation has provided water through a pipe water scheme to holding camps and schools.
Cyclone Idai flooding destroyed the water distribution system in affected areas, with some 13 pumping stations no longer functional and over 200 boreholes
seriously damaged or swept away.
Well over 100 schools lost access to sanitation facilities in areas where sanitation coverage was already low (43% in Chipinge and 46% in Chimanimani).
A village health worker in Biriiri, Evelyn Nyika said that the training they received has allowed them to talk to community leaders, especially on critical
issues to do with water, sanitation and hygiene.
“Open defecation is a thing of the past. The message was clear, and people now know the dangers of using the bush system and the advantages of using the Blair toilets available,” she said.
“Washing hands with soap for your health is a motto that resonates with our communities. We have now included leaders who also help foster changes in behaviour by repeating our messages.”
The European Union contributed €250,000 (US$ 281,035) to Unicef to provide vital water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to vulnerable children and families in
In an emergency, it is also paramount that issues to do with nutrition and immunisations be prioritised.
Most importantly, the awareness to avoid defaulting when taking drugs like ARVs, was a major part of the awareness campaign. Also imperative was taking care of
people with disabilities.
“We have also taken a deliberate move to support children who have been injured. Some were disabled as they were squashed by the rolling rocks,” Ngwerume said.
“They have been supported to access treatment and rehabilitation services. We have provided specialised treatment and devices like crutches through our partner
JF Kapnek Trust.”
For people living with HIV, the challenge was that some lost their medication while othersdefaulted.
“We put in place interventions for children living with HIV and Aids. We had cases of children who lost their medication and medical records,” Ngwerume added.
“This disrupted their treatment and through our partner Africaid, we have been able to identify children in this situation and have given them counselling.
“We have put them back on treatment and linked them to health personnel for sustainability.
“The counselling was necessary for behaviour change. Some parents had put their children on ARVs without telling them because they did not want to explain that
they passed it on to them from birth.
“We have been helping these parents to disclose their status and help children not to default.”
The government says more than 2 500 houses were washed away or damaged, leaving more than 4 000 people displaced.