Women in Chimanimani dry clothes after Cyclone Idai, March 19 2019. Picture: ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP
Women in Chimanimani dry clothes after Cyclone Idai, March 19 2019. Picture: ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP

Zimbabwe is facing a humanitarian crisis  in its Chimanimani area that was ravaged by Cyclone Idai three months ago.

UN agencies in Zimbabwe have received just 40% of the $60m required to support people affected by the cyclone.

The situation in Chimanimani remains desperate with thousands reported to be in need of food aid and shelter during winter. More than a hundred people are still missing.

A severe drought has compounded the food shortages, leaving close to 6-million of Zimbabwe’s 14-million people in need of food aid.

In a report seen by Business Day, UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief co-ordinator Ursula Mueller, who recently visited Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique to assess recovery operations, said the situation in Chimanimani was distressing.

“It’s heartbreaking, nearly three months after the cyclone’s landfall over a hundred people are still missing, thousands are displaced in camps and host communities and the damage to livelihoods has increased the chronic food security situation already present.”

Mueller noted that Zimbabwe’s weak economy and spiralling inflation  —  that has reached  a ten-year high of close to 100% — could further increase food insecurity in Chimanimani.

People in the area are also struggling to access medicines, with the situation particularly distressing for those living with HIV.

The UN notes that HIV patients in the area “face a double dilemma  of being unable to access drugs and even if they access them, not being able to properly absorb them on an empty stomach”.

Mueller appealed to the international community to urgently provide the funds needed to scale up humanitarian efforts.

Zimbabwe’s government has promised to step up its efforts and provide more assistance.

It also said that it would present a report between June 24 and  26  to UN agencies and co-operating partners detailing what is still required.

Speaking to journalists during a visit to Chimanimani last week, councillor Lovemore Utseya  said survivors had asked to be relocated to new areas after the trauma of losing loved ones and all their possessions.

Zimbabwe has appealed for $613m in aid from local and foreign donors to cover food imports and help with the humanitarian crisis caused by Cyclone Idai.

SA's assistance included helicopters and  sniffer dogs.

Local government minister July Moyo said the government still faced various challenges, including providing food assistance not only to cyclone survivors but the entire country.

“The issue of food continues to be a worry for not just Chimanimani, we are looking at drought throughout the country.

“The president has made an appeal for drought mitigation which covers the whole country and the UN  have made a fresh appeal, initially for 5,7-million people to be assisted but I think those figures will be revised upwards after the vulnerability assessment programme going on right now.”

The World Bank has estimated that Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique all need more than  $2bn to recover from Idai.

The  death toll is  602  in Mozambique, 344 in Zimbabwe and more than 60 in Malawi after Idai hit on March 14 near the port city of Beira.