A few weeks ago my daughters decided they wanted to travel to Chimanimani to see for themselves, the impact of Cyclone Idai. I was not sure whether it was a good idea. I just thought they would be in the way and interfere. They managed to persuade me and when they returned, they prepared a full briefing of their observations for me and we sat down to review it:
“We spoke to people in one area called Kopa, and we think there was a kind of ‘mud avalanche’, similar to when snow comes off a mountain, and it may have wiped out entire communities. Some people think that more than 600 people died.”
This statement about a “mud avalanche” caught my attention, and I immediately understood why people reported hearing earthshaking sounds coming from the mountain. It reminded me of what one expert had also said:
“The loose soils, some dislodged by deforestation and logging, acted like snow does, when they were hit by high winds traveling at 170km/h! That is why people heard rumbling noises. The same happens in an avalanche. Add fast moving water deluge, and it’s deadly. Those people did not stand a chance.”
We still have more than 1,000 people working on helping the people of Chimanimani, Zimbabwe recover from the impact of Cyclone Idai. Here is an update of some of our activities:
#1. Project Maricho:
We recruited more than 100 qualified builders to help families repair and rebuild their homes. We are supplying building materials, using donated funds. We plan to help repair and rebuild 5,000 homes before the next rains. The project is called “Maricho” based on a rural concept of helping each other to undertake a major task. This project is well underway now.
#2. Clean-up campaign moves into homesteads:
The 700 young people who were recruited as volunteers to help clean up the debris, including removing dead animals and hazardous waste, are now fully paid community workers, helping people clean up mud from their homes. Some homes had mud up to 3m deep and were unlivable. Our teams have helped them clean up the homes and areas around their homesteads. Their focus is on homes for the elderly.
#3. Orphans and schools: We have helped over 600 orphans return to school and also helped repair some of the schools.
#4. Counseling: We are financing several local NGOs who are involved in counseling communities deal with the post-traumatic stress.
#5. Financing: We have helped dozens of small businesses get back on their feet by providing them financing.
#6. Finding the missing:
Our major exercise to establish how many people are still missing and their names has been completed. The study undertaken by Cassava Advanced Data Analytics will be released this week. I have already seen the report and it is very, very sad.
#7. Memorial Estate:
We have secured a 2,000 hectare site from the Government of Zimbabwe to build new homes for families who lost their homes and cannot rebuild where they originally lived. This is our major initiative going forward. Design work for the first 500 houses has been completed and contractors will start work in July.
#8. Land preparations: Our tractor fleet is now moving from logistics to land preparations for families that lost cattle.
#9. Roads and bridges: Our contractors working on road repairs and local community bridges are still working and will be completed on the work we gave them by end August.
#10. Removal and crushing of stones:
Stones brought down from the mountains did a lot of damage. Removing them has been a major exercise for the past two months. Our engineers will install a crushing machine to convert some of them into building materials.
Our work has only been possible because of the extraordinary cooperation and collaboration of partners who include the Zimbabwe National Army and police; ministries of local government, environment, and agriculture; the Civil Protection Unit; Zimbabwe’s churches and church leaders; local government authorities; administrators; political parties and traditional leaders, as well as Zimbabwe’s business leaders and entrepreneurs.
We also have dozens international partners who include UN agencies, UK’s DFID, Gates Foundation, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite, Israel Aid, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Soros Foundation, Gift of The Givers from South Africa and many others.
Here’s a link to one video made by my daughters during their trip to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Warning: it is extremely sad. We can’t forget, or let the world forget. Part of our mission in all the work we’re doing is to prepare our communities for the future, should any such catastrophe ever hit again.
#Reboot and BuildBetter
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa