Real-Time Response Review – DEC programme for Cyclone Idai: Zimbabwe country report

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive summary

Cyclone Idai hit eastern Zimbabwe with heavy rains and strong winds on 17 March 2019. 2 The cyclone caused riverine and flash flooding with subsequent deaths. It destroyed infrastructure; washed away roads and bridges, damaged water points and water reticulation systems as well as schools. Cyclone Idai also disrupted livelihoods and trade; it swept away fields, granaries, and damaged irrigation schemes.
The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) estimates that 270,000 people were affected by the cyclone and 10,000 houses were destroyed. 15,270 people were still displaced by the cyclone as of the end of June 2019.
The total DEC appeal funds allocated to Zimbabwe for Phase One of a DEC response is 2,404,176 GBP, out of a total of 14,660,429 GBP for the three countries (Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe). 3 The greatest sectoral share of the Zimbabwe funding was in WASH (31%) followed by Food (13%) and nutrition (9%).
Seven DEC members have responded to the cyclone in Zimbabwe, which are: World Vision,
OXFAM, Action Aid, CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), Save the Children,
Christian Aid and Age International. The seven members aim to support a cumulative 10,451 households in Phase One of the response. DEC members are responding in Chipinge,
Chimanimani and Buhera districts. The seven DEC members are working in the following sectors:
Livelihoods, WASH, Health, NFI, Shelter, Education, Nutrition, Protection and Food Security.
A real-time review (RTR) was commissioned by the DEC with the purpose of collecting reflection and learning in a participatory manner as the project is being implemented, which will be used to make program changes in different areas of the response, during the final months of Phase One implementation as well as to the design of Phase Two activities. Key informants and FGD participants as well as from participants in the second country workshop at the end of fieldwork participated in the review by making recommendations, giving feedback on the preliminary findings, identifying best practices, and sharing lessons learned.

Relevance and appropriateness of the response

DEC members targeted the most affected districts and wards of the country in Chimanimani and Chipinge. DEC members targeted these districts with emergency lifesaving support which was in line with the needs and requirements of affected communities. FGDs and KIIs confirmed the relevance and appropriateness of DEC member interventions. However, DEC members’ responses could not address all of the community needs. The review notes large gaps in the coverage of food aid assistance, psychosocial support, and health care. Gaps were mainly due to the enormous needs that the cyclone created.
DEC members’ responses catered for needs of special population groups (children under the age of five, school going children, the elderly, and women of reproductive age, pregnant and lactating mothers). Widows and grandmothers caring for school-going children noted they would have challenges paying for school fees as many lost their livelihoods and family members who were the household breadwinners.
The DEC members’ Phase One response timelines are in line with the seasonal calendar of the affected area. The DEC response covered the period just before and during the winter season.
Affected households were assisted with temporary shelters, blankets and dignity kits. DEC members’ Phase Two response will, however, need to start responding to emerging needs around recovery and the planting season.
DEC members’ activities were able to adapt to the changing operating environment adequately.
This is in part due to DEC flexible funding rules that enable activities to adjust to changing needs and circumstances.

Effectiveness in achieving intended outcomes

Overall, DEC members felt their activities were on track to achieve intended outcomes. However, some sectoral responses fall short of meeting the community’s needs, especially for food and shelter.
KIIs with health workers revealed that they were satisfied with the support they received in hygiene kits and promotion, nutrition monitoring and supplementary food. At both health centres visited, the nurses pointed out that they did not see a significant spike in diarrhoea cases as may have been expected.
In the education sector, DEC members are working on more permanent rehabilitation of schools, but in the interim period, they provided temporary classrooms (under non-DEC funding).
The effectiveness of interventions in the shelter sector was more difficult to ascertain, as DEC members with shelter activities had to revise their plans after the GoZ issued a directive for agencies to stop providing temporary shelter. All agencies are directed to work on more permanent shelters.
Of all services provided by DEC members, they mentioned food aid as the service that affected communities thought was inadequate. Affected communities felt that agencies were targeting fewer people than those in need and for a shorter period.
Both affected communities and DEC members’ staff felt that psychosocial support services were inadequate given the scale of the disaster. DEC member staff thought that the service was simply not enough because of the sheer number of people who required it versus the number of service providers.
In FGDs, communities appreciated livelihoods training and indicated that it was enabling them to start thinking about recovery. The same communities, however, thought the training would be more effective with more widespread and timely distribution of agricultural inputs.

Accountability to affected population

DEC members put in place a variety of thorough accountability mechanisms across the project cycle. Communities felt consulted on their needs and responses were in line with humanitarian standards. Affected communities were knowledgeable of the various selection criteria used by DEC members across sectors.
Communities also knew the project feedback mechanisms. Confidential ways of giving feedback were the most preferred. Several community members had reservations with feedback mechanisms that involve interfacing directly with other community members, for fear of reprisals.
Participants across all focus group discussions (FGDs) and community level key informant interviews (KIIs) strongly and consistently stated that they had not heard or seen any examples or even rumours of fraud, mismanagement, corruption, sexual exploitation or assault in the agency’s cyclone response in their communities. Participants pointed out that they knew how to respond if they did come across such negative activities.

Sustainability and connectedness of the response

The review noted that the response considered sustainability issues. The response factored in sustainability through community capacity building and training, conducting assessments for the longer-term and recovery needs, inculcating a sense of ownership within communities and working with existing community groups such as school development associations and community health clubs. DEC members worked on community assets that communities will continue using after the cyclone response. Longer-term assets that DEC members supported include springs, water systems at clinics, school classroom books and latrines.
These approaches take into consideration existing community capacities and build future capacities.

Coordination and complementarity

The GoZ instituted the main coordination bodies at national, provincial and district levels.
Coordination worked well with the District Administrators (DAs) allocating operational districts to different agencies. DEC members attended coordination forums regularly and submitted weekly and monthly reports within the response clusters. There was no DEC-specific coordination forum for member agencies, but this was not necessary since members are part of various other coordination fora.


A cyclone response presents unique challenges: physical access is difficult in the first few days and communication is made difficult by infrastructure destruction. Overall, DEC members’ response to the Cyclone Idai can be a considered a success, in so far that it provided a flexible source of funds that allowed members to adapt their responses quickly to changing circumstances, addressed those needs the targeted communities’ expressed as being the most relevant, and made efforts to build accountability to affected populations into the response.
In Zimbabwe, the scale of the disaster seems to have been more significant than the GoZ and other humanitarian actors initially anticipated. It, therefore, stresses the importance of preparedness from DEC members for future disasters. Prior knowledge and experience working in disaster-prone areas are assets that DEC members can build upon. With a high likelihood of another disaster (drought or floods), preparing would help strengthen the gains made in this response and potentially protect people from the worst effects of another disaster.


  1. Expand and extend food aid coverage. Food distributions need to stretch beyond the current three months as households will only be able to recover after the next harvests around March 2020.

  2. Advocate with the Government of Zimbabwe for infrastructure reconstruction. Roads and bridges are pivotal for the livelihoods of the affected communities.

  3. Focus Phase Two livelihood response on interventions that support the timely recovery of pre-existing livelihood activities. This could entail agricultural input support schemes and also market assessments of how key value chains were affected by the cyclone.

  4. Strengthen mobile or community health delivery structures through continuous training and provision of supplies.

  5. Make sure the needs of older persons (OP) are considered and addressed.

  6. Collaborate more intentionally among DEC members to foster more complementarity between their interventions through greater collaboration at the project design phase.

  7. Plan early for possibilities of limited access to some affected communities during the upcoming rainy season. Also, consider approaches that do not need the physical presence of DEC members’ officers on the ground.

  8. Employ at least one confidential feedback mechanism such as toll-free numbers or suggestion boxes.