A severe hailstorm has destroyed over 500 houses and hectares of crops in the Mberengwa district of Zimbabwe last month. Roofs of most houses were blown away and walls collapsed, damaging properties and injuring people. The houses continue to fall apart weeks after the hailstorm is gone.
Over 2,000 people were now homeless while many infrastructures such as bridges, roads, schools, police stations and clinics got destroyed. The water systems and irrigation projects were also flooded, along with livestock deaths. The district has also experienced above normal rains this season. Many welfare institutions and public structures were damaged, leaving most children trapped at either at schools or homes failing to cross bridges, hence affecting mobility between homes and schools.
Following the heavy rains on 22 February, 30 pupils in Mberengwa failed to return home from school after three bridges collapsed. The bridges are all along Mwenezi River. At Chegato High School, three weeks after the disaster, seven pupils remain isolated from their families with 23 others at Mutate High School forced to seek shelter at homesteads close to the school.
The people described the hailstorm as the first of its kind in the district. Ratidzo Mafirachuma, 63, of Museve Village, saw her 47-year-old six-room house reduced to rubble and furniture destroyed as the structure could not stand the magnitude of the wind and the rains.
“I lived in this house since 1970 and it was painful to see it fall like chaff to the ground. I have not seen such a hailstorm in my lifetime. I am thankful that no one was injured,” shared a dejected Ratidzo. He was with his six grandchildren and daughter-in-law when the house collapsed. She also lost 20 chickens and their farm crops damaged.
Working with the Department for International Development (DFID) and Start Fund, World Vision swiftly responded in Tsholotsho and Mberengwa. “We are grateful to DFID and the Start Fund who extended a helping hand to Zimbabwe. We are providing food, non-food items and try to ensure the affected are counselled and diseases do not break out,” said Goodson Murinye, World Vision’s Response Manager.
The emergency programme will run until April18, 2017 to meet the immediate needs of 1,640 households, or 8,200 beneficiaries with tarpaulin tents, food assistance and dissemination of hygiene messages. The Ministry of Labour and Social Services, the Mberengwa District Administrator’s Office and Ward Development Committees are working closely with the humanitarian sector to identify those affected and ensure they receive assistance.
“We visit households and check the state of homes. Houses continue to collapse as the ground is saturated and water is flowing from underground,” said Dzambu Saine, World Vision’s Ward Development Coordinator during the food distribution.
World Vision’s long-term area development plan has invested on education, health, water, sanitation, food security and life-skills development of communities in the Mberengwa district for the past 12 years.
The humanitarian sector altogether moved in to alleviate the situation of the affected families and children. Oxfam has assisted with blankets, soap bars, water treatment pills and maize meal. “Immediately after the disaster, Oxfam came to the rescue of the families within three days,” said Nikora Ngara, Zvomukonde Ward Councilor. “The Red Cross Society provided tents for those who lost homes,” he dded.
The hailstorm and floods hit the country exactly a year after the President of Zimbabwe declared the State of National Disaster following a drought caused by the dry and hot El Nino weather phenomenon.
Featured image: After the devastating El Nino phenomenon, the people are struggling on the impact of hailstorms and flooding.