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Rebuilding lives in the aftermath of cyclone devastation

Six months after the devastating cyclone hit Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, Trócaire support is helping communities to rebuild their lives

Nyasha Sunduza (44) is a survivor from Kopa village in Zimbabwe which was totally destroyed by the cyclone. (Photo : Godwill Mafake) Nyasha Sunduza (44) is a survivor from Kopa village in Zimbabwe which was totally destroyed by the cyclone. (Photo : Godwill Mafake)

I will not forget my experience of visiting the affected areas in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the cyclone.

A Catholic school dormitory reduced to rubble; enormous boulders now occupying places that were once busy towns; washed out bridges and roads; destroyed homes too numerous to count; desperate groups of people and individuals digging everywhere to find the remains of missing relatives.

The scenes were appalling everywhere I looked.

This week marks the six-month anniversary of Cyclone Idai. In March 2019, this cyclone caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

It was one of the worst tropical cyclones to affect Africa, leaving more than 1,300 people dead. Thousands are still missing – presumed dead – and more than 3 million people have been affected.

Responding to immediate and long term needs

The Irish public donated €414,840 to our emergency appeal, and thanks to this generosity Trócaire was able to respond immediately through our partners on the ground in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Trócaire, through the Caritas network, has continued to support over 160,000 people across the three countries with their ongoing needs. The support includes emergency shelter materials, food supplies, shelter, essential household items and basic toiletries.

Longer term projects addressing water, sanitation and hygiene needs, information on ongoing support and services, psychosocial support, emergency seeds and tools are helping people better prepare and respond to future emergencies.

“There was no trace of my family”

Nyasha Sunduza (44) is a survivor from Kopa village in Zimbabwe which was totally destroyed by the cyclone.

Nyasha lived with her mother, two young nieces and her nephew. She had been visiting a nearby town when the disaster struck. On arriving back home she faced the tragic reality. There were no traces of her four family members or their home.

“I went through the gruesome process of looking through pictures of bodies which had been recovered but there was no trace of my family. After days and weeks, I lost hope and gave up on the possibility of finding them, their bodies or even just parts of their bodies,” Nyasha told us.

Then came the challenge of trying to survive in the aftermath.

“I tried to access food but was told that I was not on the distribution list as I was away when the disaster happened. Without shelter, food and clothing, I was devastated and lost,” she said.

Nyasha then went to an information kiosk set up by Trócaire’s partner, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP). “The CCJP people helped me to get registered to receive support. I received emergency assistance that included food, a blanket, a torch and kitchen utensils”.

“I could not be more grateful for the help as I work to rebuild my life and live independently as I did before.”

Addressing trauma

The mental strain has been challenging for Nyasha. She says “I still wish I could see the remains of my family. Recently I saw a new grave of one of the victims and imagined how good it would be to have a decent burial for my loved ones.”

To help communities recover from the trauma of what they have survived, Trócaire is giving much-needed information on the various services available to people through information kiosks as well as psychosocial support through trained professionals and volunteers.

“Speaking with the information kiosk workers has helped me to gain courage and talk about my ordeal. I have learnt of many services available to me that I never knew existed. I learnt that I can also receive help to deal with the mental stresses I still feel.”

“I now have a lot of things figured out and will get on with living despite my ordeal. Agencies like CCJP make this journey easier,” Nyasha said.

Climate Change – a global problem

The risk of natural disasters like cyclones, floods and drought is increasing and severe weather events are becoming more frequent and intense because of climate change.

Trócaire continues to work with local partners to prepare communities for such changes and their impact as well as continuing to campaign for global action on climate change.

Nelly Maonde is Trócaire’s Regional Humanitarian Advisor in Zimbabwe

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