The torrential rains at the end of February affected 500,000 people and had a devastating impact on crops and livestock, infrastructure and the environment, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released at the weekend. An estimated 20,000 people have been displaced after the country's major rivers, including the Limpopo, Save, Mutirikwi and Runde, burst their banks.
"The situation is under control only so far as we are now able to reach the affected people," Local Government Minister John Nkomo and chairman of the ministerial committee on civil disaster told IRIN on Monday. "The larger issue now is of the possible outbreak of diseases like cholera and malaria."
Nkomo stressed that the appeal was for the short-term needs of people directly affected by the flooding. "The much larger question is one of rehabilitating the people and the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure. It is an enormous task and it will be sometime before we can get back to normal ... Crops were destroyed and that means another full year of looking after these people."
He denied criticism in the private media that the rescue effort had been slow to get off the ground and that the army had not provided enough helicopters. "Even if we wanted to respond immediately it was never going to be possible because of the infrastructural damage ... Helicopters couldn't even fly because of the conditions." He added that emergency teams, "did their best given that it was the first time they were experiencing something of this scale."
Nkomo, who has toured the affected areas, described seeing fields and homesteads submerged under floodwaters. "We will do whatever we can. The people on their own will try and do what they can, but the destruction is so much. It's going to be a mammoth task."
The international appeal covers basic items such as blankets, tents, plastic sheeting, clothing, stoves and a three-month supply of food for those in need in Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Manicaland and Midlands provinces in the south and east of the country.
The following is a snapshot of the devastation as reported by OCHA:
The greatest damage in this province occurred in Chiredzi district, where approximately 2,500 homes were destroyed and over 1,000 livestock lost. Over 500 km of roads were destroyed, as well as 11 bridges and two dams. Over 3,500 hectares of farmland were flooded, leading to a loss of US $1.6 million.
Matebeleland South Province
Over 16,000 livestock were lost and crops worth US $14.9 million on 26,000 hectares were washed away. In addition, 61 dams, 98 schools and 42 clinics were damaged, and 51 bridges and 13,000 granaries were destroyed.
Unprecedented damage was suffered in this province; 25 major bridges were damaged which will cost in excess of US $5.1 million to repair. 2,000 kilometres of road and 9 dams were damaged. Some 1,300 homes were destroyed, and crops worth US $51.3 million were lost.
In Mberengwa district, the Mataga dam was breached, which led to the evacuation of over 1,000 people to safety. There was also considerable damage to the road network in this province, as well as to dams and other infrastructure.
OCHA is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions for the immediate relief needs. Funds channelled through OCHA will be spent in co-ordination with the relevant organisations of the UN system and OCHA will provide written confirmation of their use. Funds should be transferred to OCHA Account No. CO-590.160.1 SWIFT-code UBSWCHZ12A - at the UBS AG, PO Box 2770, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, with reference: OCHA - Zimbabwe - Floods 2000
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