By Jeffrey Moyo
Mwenezi, February 24, 2014 – For 47-year-old terminally ill Artwell Mandava from Mwenezi district in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province, reaching the nearest clinic in his area has become impossible, rendered so by two flooded rivers lying between his village and access to life-prolonging drugs.
Maranda clinic is 16 kilometres from his homestead. Mandava does not hide what ails him.
“I’m HIV positive and because of the rains that have resulted in Mushawi and Chipwe rivers flooding, I cannot reach Maranda clinic to collect ARVs,” Mandava told RNW his predicament, adding that this has resulted in him skipping medication, placing his life in danger.
Mandava is amongst hundreds of villagers in this part of Zimbabwe thrown into a quagmire because of the floods.
Homes destroyed, crops lost
According to Save Lives Zimbabwe, a community-based relief organisation in Mwenezi district, large numbers of villagers across the district have been affected by the floods.
“At least 8120 villagers in Mwenezi have been seriously affected by the floods, some have had their homes destroyed while others have lost their crops. “Thousands of school-going children are failing to attend school because of flooded rivers and streams,” Merit Chikwava, director of SLZ, told RNW.
The SLZ director also said 97 rural homesteads have been submerged by the floods.
Chikwava also charged that “the government is delaying to salvage the situation through too much protocol amid the worsening disaster.”
Civil Protection Unit director, Madzudzo Pawadyira confirmed the magnitude of the disaster.
“The food situation is bad in Mwenezi in the wake of the floods and there is urgent need to assist those affected.”
The Civil Protection Unit, through Zimbabwe’s Civil Protection Act (Chapter 10.06), is mandated with the responsibility of emergency management and disaster prevention of both natural and man-made hazards.
Its major function is to prepare for, prevent and mitigate the effects of disasters.
Pawadyira said the floods have not only affected people in Mwenezi, but over 8 000 other villagers from Chiredzi and parts of Mberengwa district in this Southern African nation’s Midlands Province.
Zivanai Muzorodzi, Programs manager for the Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD), a Zimbabwean civic organisation, said many families have lost their homes to floods in Mwenezi district.
Local authorities are not sure if rescue will reach this part of the country.
Distracted by dam disaster
“Villagers’ lives are in danger and nobody knows whether government rescue efforts will reach Mwenezi as more attention is being paid to the Tokwe-Mukosi dam disaster,” an official at Mwenezi Rural district office speaking on the condition of anonymity, told RNW.
Reacting to the Tokwe-Mukosi disaster, government made an emergency appeal to the donor community for USD 20 million to relocate 60 000 people affected by the flood disaster.
According to the government appeal, as of 9 February, 36 families out of a targeted 2,230 had been moved owing to limited available transport to carry the families and their belongings to relocation sites.
As a result of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam disaster, six people are known to have died there while homes, crops and livestock have all been washed away.
Crisis will continue
But a survey conducted by RNW in Masvingo province’s Mwenezi district revealed floods equally left a trail of destruction.
In the district’s Maranda area, roads have been rendered impassable and scores of pole and dagga huts have collapsed. Affected villagers are crammed in the few remaining huts waiting for the floods to subside.
But according to the country’s Metereological Department, the rains pounding the country are set to continue a little longer.
The reports have irked the villagers who now fear for the worst as government intervention remains uncertain.
“We just hear government is moving in to assist villagers around the Tokwe-Mukosi dam and relocating them to higher ground, but no help has reached us yet,” said Tariro Msipa, a villager from Mwenezi district’s Vesera village.
Masvingo provincial education director Clara Dube said the rains destroyed several schools in Masvingo’s Lowveld, forcing some school children to learn under trees.
“We have a complete disaster in the Lowveld in southern Chiredzi and Mwenezi, where 28 schools experienced varying degrees of damage owing to flooding caused by heavy rains which fell in the two areas,” Dube said.
Students in the area have also been left stranded.
20-year-old Merylin Muzambani who is doing her Advanced Level secondary education at Mwenezi’s Gukuku secondary school has since retired home owing to the floods.
“I have failed to attend school for the past two weeks and I fear that I may fail to write my final examinations this year,” Muzambani told RNW.
The incessant rains are chocking crops threatening the villagers with starvation.
“We started sensing trouble a few days before the end of January when the rains started here. We are not sure whether we will reap anything from the fields,” said Elson Moyo, a village head in Mwenezi’s Vesera village.
The villagers in Mwenezi are a dejected and forgotten lot.
“Government has not addressed us on our plight as if we do not exist,” 73-year-old Maggie Madyira, a peasant and widow, told RNW.
But Masvingo deputy provincial administrator Goden Chipika assured residents assistance would be forthcoming.
“We are aware Mwenezi has mainly pole and dagga huts, which are prone to damage during heavy rains. We are making efforts to ensure the situation is addressed,’’ Chipika said.