Zimbabwe: Flood victims tell their stories

by Mark South

Zimbabwe has been severely affected by the floods that hit southern Africa over the last few weeks, including the Muzarabani area. We have asked four flood victims currently staying at an Agricultural Rural Development Authority Farm (ARDA) in Muzarabani (Zimbabwe) to explain how they have been affected. They all received Red Cross aid in their villages before evacuating to the government-run ARDA farm.

Many of the beneficiaries brought Red Cross issued items with them to the farm where they have access to clean and reliable water, sanitation and food. Most families left some members behind sheltering in Red Cross tents pitched on higher ground above the level of the floods; even though almost all crops have been destroyed, they do not want to completely abandon their fields and villages.

Ribetia Mutoro, 65, from Mvundura Village in Muzarabani

"The floods came early in the morning. It was seven a.m. and we were getting ready to go out to the fields when suddenly the water came in through the door of my home. My family lost four huts, they were completely flattened by the water. I used to have ten chickens but only one survived. I came to the ARDA on my own after the floods last week, even though they are ruined my two sons and three grandchildren didn't want to leave our fields behind, I have no idea where they are now. We heard a truck was coming to rescue people from the village but the truck got stuck and we had to come on foot - it took me two days to walk the 80km from my village to the farm here. After the floods the Red Cross came and helped us very quickly. They gave us some blankets, kitchen equipment, a jerry can, a mosquito net and most importantly a tent so we had somewhere to shelter. Then we moved to some higher ground to keep out of the water and put the tent up, as far as I know my family is still there, but I don't know. When the water came it was terrifying, I'm getting better now but whenever I think about what happened I feel so scared and I've been having nightmares about it.

Living at the farm is okay, I miss my family but at least here I'm away from the danger of flooding and I know I can get clean water and food. I've been told by our village head that he will help us find a new place to live on higher land away from the river. I wouldn't want to return to my old home - my house has been destroyed and I'd be too scared of the floods coming again.

I'd really like to say a big thank you to the Red Cross and everyone who helped me and my family, we couldn't have had any future without the help they gave us. We had nothing and it was this help that kept us alive and gave us the will to carry on, otherwise we might have given up.

I don't want to go back to my old village, I can't go back. I am an old woman but my children and grandchildren are still young and I want to prepare a better future for them without the threat of these floods. All my food and crops were washed away so I have no chance of harvesting anything and nothing to go back to even if I wanted to, I would just face the same problems and dangers all over again."

Gertrude Chamadzi, 22, and two-year-old daughter Gamuchiria Mawrara from Chadereka village

"When the floods came, my family's two huts were destroyed and a lot of our food stores were washed away. We took refuge in a secondary school at first and then a government truck came and brought me and my two younger sisters to this farm. Here it is better but there are a lot of problems in the flooded area, we can't get clean water and there are a lot of mosquitoes. We only had dirty water to drink and we had to give it to the baby too so I'm very worried for her health. I don't think she's really aware what is happening but she has been very upset. She cries a lot more now and I think maybe she has suffered some shock because of the changes.

The Red Cross gave our family a jerry can, some blankets and a kitchen set - although our huts had been destroyed we didn't need a tent because we moved to the school. Our houses and everything we had inside them had gone so the help from the Red Cross was vital. We were stunned because we had lost almost everything and I don't know how we would have managed to cope without help from the Red Cross.

The future is looking quite bleak for us, we've lost our home and our crops and I don't know what is going to happen next - things are so uncertain at the moment that I can't even begin to plan what to do. I want to be able to give my daughter a more certain future so that when she is my age she will be able to look after herself and won't face problems like this."

Juliet Chari, 20, came to the farm from Chadereka with her 3 children: daughters Ropafadzo, five, and Rumbidzai, three, and son Frank, three months

"We came in the truck with my aunt, and left my husband and mother-in-law in the village. It's been really difficult to cope, especially with three children to look after. We lost everything including all my children's clothes and the baby's nappies, so things are really tough. Because the village is flooded there isn't any clean drinking water, which is why I brought the children to the farm. The Red Cross helped us out with blankets and a jerry can and a kitchen set, but what I'm most worried about now is that we couldn't get a mosquito net and Frank, my baby, is getting bitten. I'm really scared he could get malaria.

I am quite new to the area, Chadereka is my mother in law's village which is why I moved here, but I don't want to go back. I don't know where we will move to but it will have to be higher ground than before, I can't face all this happening again. I want my children to have a safe and more secure future, I don't want them to suffer like this.

The help from the Red Cross has been vital and it without it we would have been in real trouble, now I know we're safe, I just hope I can get a mosquito net, more nappies for my baby and clothes for my children."

(Before leaving the farm Zimbabwe Red Cross supplied Juliet with a mosquito net for her and her family.)

Leon Cheuseni, 43, from Makombie Village

"At around six in the morning I was helping friends who had been affected by the floods. When I returned home to check on my own property the water was almost a meter deep in both my huts. To begin with the water came very slowly so we didn't realize how serious the situation was, then very suddenly the water was overwhelming. We managed to retrieve a few items but the flood has left me and my family with basically nothing.

The Red Cross supplied my family with a kitchen set of cups, spoons, pots and plates, a tent, a jerry can and a mosquito net. Without that help I really don't now what we would have done - the Red Cross put a roof over our heads and made sure we were safe, without them I don't want to think about what could have happened.

Now I have to find a new place to live and work really hard to recover, but I know I can't live in the same place again, even though the land there is good for growing my crops, I'm too scared of the floods coming back. I lost everything and now I have to start again from scratch."