Chipo’s story: Confused by the flood evacuation
By Richard Nyamanhindi
The flooding and evacuations in Tokwe-Mukosi in Masvingo Province in Zimbabwe is already leaving its mark on children who have been forced to take refuge in transit and holding camps away from their homes. Many of the affected children carry frightening memories of near drowning, hunger and sleeping in the open.
Chipo, aged 7 is one of the children facing the trauma. Her dry lips, pale face and muddy clothes, is good evidence of the difficulties she has faced before getting to Gororo clinic – one of the transit camps for the flood survivors in Mwenezi.
She will probably carry this trauma the rest of her life, but bravely she consoles her grandmother on losing the little belongings they had. “We will be okay, it is God’s will,” says Chipo to her grandmother.
When asked about where she is going to go from the transit camp, her eyes water a-bit with tears of sadness. “I do not know, but I want to go back home.” With the way things are she will never go back home where her mother and father are buried. It was only a few days ago that the swelling water in the Tokwe-Mukosi flood plain submerged their two huts.
We recently met with Chipo and her grandmother on a trip to Tokwe-Mukosi to assess some of the challenges facing women and children in the aftermath of the floods. Chipo and her grandmother, Mbuya Saungweme were airlifted two days prior to our visit to the transit camp following three days of being marooned on an island. At the camp they have no food, soap, extra clothes and access to clean water.
When asked about what she wants to be when she grows up – that is if she will ever go back to school, she says she would like to be a pilot following the spectacular air rescue that saved her life and that of her grandmother from the jaws of death.
Chipo’s mother and father died in 2007 and she has been helping her grandmother to irk out a living through selling vegetables from their small garden on the Masvingo-Beitbridge highway. As noted by Mbuya Saungweme, they used to make a dollar a day.
The authorities in Masvingo say the survivors will be re-located to Chingwizi holding camp in Chiredzi about 100 kilometres from their old homes. “Chingwizi is far way from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam, but also very far from the Masvingo-Beitbridge highway which offered a livelihood option for our community,” says Mbuya Saungweme.
Many families continue to arrive at Gororo clinic – with some households doing so without their children whom they have left just outside the flooding zone to tend to livestock or attending school, while other children are turning up in other transit camps without their parents or guardians.
A total of 2,514 families have been affected by the flooding in Masvingo, with more than 700 families yet to be re-located to safety. A lot of assistance is still required and for the moment life still remains difficult for 7-year-old Chipo who dreams to be a pilot someday.