OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
An already fragile humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has been compounded by the impact of Cyclone Idai. In the eastern province of Manicaland, many lives have been lost and hundreds are still unaccounted for. Thousands of families require emergency shelter and the livelihoods of at least 270,000 people have been affected. Infrastructure damage is very significant.
FLOODS SITUATION OVERVIEW
The Cyclone Idai weather system hit the eastern part of Zimbabwe, a highly impoverished part of the country, on 15 and 16 March, with Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in Manicaland Province hardest-hit. The cyclone comes during a particularly challenging time for the country which is emerging from a drought and is grappling with economic challenges that have exacerbated humanitarian conditions across the country.
Preliminary reports indicate that some 270,000 people with existing acute levels of vulnerability, have been directly affected across all districts in Manicaland and parts of Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces. The initial estimates of people in need will be further refined as more areas become accessible and sector assessment are completed. The force of the cyclone was concentrated in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts, with at least 50 per cent of the population affected and where loss of life is expected to be the greatest. There have been significant damage to crops, livestock and particularly infrastructure including roads, bridges, water installations, power and communication and many homes, schools and community structures have also been damaged. While the number of people killed, missing, or displaced is difficult to estimate given ongoing significant access challenges; preliminary reports indicate that, more than 10,000 displaced individuals are living in spontaneous settlements, in public buildings (schools and Government buildings), in transit camps and with host families in several districts. The Government reported 299 deaths and more than 300 people missing, 1,263 houses have been damaged and 584 destroyed in Mutare, and 2,290 were damaged in Buhera district. These numbers are likely to increase as more areas become accessible in the hardest hit districts.
Following the President’s announcement of a “State of Disaster” on 17 March 2019, the Government established an Emergency Committee, headed by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing. The military and police have been mobilized for search and rescue operations and airdropping of life-saving support as well as an ongoing effort to open road access to many of the affected wards that remain cut off as a result of damage of power and communication infrastructure. An inter-agency assessment undertaken on the 18 March, two days after the Cyclone hit in the two most affected district of Chipige and Chimanimani, confirmed the widespread damage caused by the cyclone. A rapid damage assessment confirms 11 major bridges have been destroyed or damaged while minor bridges and access points on secondary roads critically impacted. In areas where there is access, the relief effort is underway with engagement from many NGOs and UN agencies. The Zimbabwean public, church and faith-based organizations have also mobilized.
The cyclone’s impact compounds existing vulnerabilities of an estimated that 270,000 people who would require food assistance as well as agricultural and livelihood support.
Initial estimates indicate that 4,700 hectares of crops were destroyed in Chimanimani and Chipinge district alone. The availability and price of food is also likely to be impacted by the limited access to markets as a result of destruction of road infrastructure and mobile network. Prior to the cyclone, the food security situation in Manicaland and part of Masvingo provinces was already serious – all districts had been classified as being in IPC 3 and the district of Buhera in IPC 4. Damage to crops, food stocks and livestock is widespread especially in the most affected areas. Significantly this crisis hit as the yearly harvest of food crops was underway. The communities impacted are heavily dependent on subsistent agriculture production. Zimbabwe is already facing a food crisis (drought impact and food affordability) including in the districts impacted by the cyclone, the combination of these two crises compound the livelihood difficulties of the population affected. Households in hardest hit villages lost all their farming and livestock assets, together with their homesteads and stored food. Most markets are not fully functional due to destruction of road infrastructure and mobile network – this could lead to price increases and/or scarcity of food in markets.
Initial estimates of households who require emergency shelter and non-food items (NFI) stands at 18,000 in the most affected districts. Assessment reporting complete or partial destruction of houses, including Chimanimani (8,000 households), Chipinge (3,000 households), Buhera (1,000 households) and Mutare (4,000 households).
Preliminary information indicates that the number of unaccompanied children and orphans in need of psychosocial support (PSS) and other protection services is high.
Protection needs are particularly high for women and children, including from abuse or sexual exploitation, especially for those separated from families or in temporary camps. A growing number of children are now separated from their caregivers who are deceased or missing. Some caregivers have been injured and have been evacuated without the children being informed. Many children are being cared for by spontaneous fostering. Idai has left at least 90,000 people in immediate need of PSS services. This is further amplified by the fact that schools in the affected area have closed. Another concern for those communities near the Mozambique border is an unknown number of landmines. There is a risk the floods have displaced mines. Landmine awareness and acceleration of demining efforts are urgently required.
Large numbers of people in affected communities including refugee in Tongorora camp and have lost critical documentation increasing protection concerns. Many have lost civil registration documents that ensure identification, protection and access to entitlements, such as birth, death and marriage certificates. An estimated 100,000 people need duplicate civil registration documents and mobile registration; 90,000 people including 60,000 children need protection services including PSS and GBV-related services; and 1,500 separated and unaccompanied children are in need of identification, documentation, tracing and reunification (IDTR) services. There is an urgent need to work with the armed forces, civil protection, camp management and other service providers to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, and set up appropriate mechanisms for identification, referral and care for survivors. Inequitable access to humanitarian aid is already being reported, with highly vulnerable groups including vulnerable women, people with disability and separated and unaccompanied children at greater risk of being excluded. The lack of privacy, light, sanitation and unsafe temporary camp settlement of vulnerable women and girls will increase the risk of violence, abuse and transactional sex.
Support is also required to restore services to damaged health centres, replenishment of essential drugs, and reestablish the cold chain, to support the most vulnerable who require sustained care, including the sick, people living with HIV/AIDS, the elderly, pregnant and lactating mothers and children under age 5. These vulnerable groups are also exposed to the heightened risk of water born disease, cholera and typhoid outbreak which could potentially lead to a significant increase in morbidity and mortality in affected areas.
Access to safe, drinking water and sanitation facilities is also another key priority, including to prevent and mitigate an increase of disease outbreaks, such as cholera as the country is currently facing an outbreak of cholera and typhoid that started in September 2018. Following Cyclone Idai, about 5,000 meters of the water distribution network was washed away in Chimanimani town, depriving more than 9,000 residents of safe water. In Chipinge town, the main pipeline from the water treatment plan was washed away at two river crossings, depriving more than 33,000 residents of safe water. Some sections of the sewer network in Chipinge Gaza Township was also washed away. Over 250 boreholes, 50 springs and 18 water supply systems were damaged across flood affected districts. Additionally, more than 50 schools lost sanitation infrastructure in Chipinge and Chimanimani districts.
Education has also been seriously affected. To date, 139 schools have reported structural damages to classrooms and losses of learning materials and, based on the available information, four schools have been used as reception centres for displaced families. Intervention will be required to insure that children in affected communities resume educational activities and return to normality in a child friendly environment in the aftermath of the cyclone.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.