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Zimbabwe, 3 April 2017: Tsholotsho struggles with disease burden after unprecedented flooding

Sipepa Village in Tsholotsho has the most fertile soils in the entire Matebeleland North Province. This is mainly due to the confluence of two mighty rivers – the Gwayi and Khami Rivers. In a normal year, local villagers boast a bumper harvest of maize, sorghum and millet. This year, Tropical Storm Dineo burst the two rivers banks, flooded four villages, and destroyed crops, property, livelihoods and livestock. These have been the worst floods in 15 years. More than 855 people were left homeless, among the victims are 501 children and 157 elderly people including 86 with chronic diseases. Two babies have since been delivered at the hospital.

Sipepa Rural Hospital Sister in Charge Mejury Maphosa said there had been an unusual increase in cases of people with open sores and diarrhoea since rains pounded the area last month displacing more than 170 families in the district’s Ward Six.

“The first two weeks were hectic,” Maphosa says. “We had to put in extra hours and on some days were beefed up by extra staff from Tsholotsho (hospital).”

Still grappling with the effects of the El-Niño induced drought which affected Zimbabwe in 2015-16, Tsholotsho is the most affected out of ten districts that have been ravaged by the torrential rains. Under the leadership of Zimbabwe’s Civil Protection Unit, a massive relief response effort was launched with government, development partners, civil society, and UN agencies to respond to the emergency.

Through funding from the United Kingdoms’ Department for International Development (DFID), Emergency Programme, UNICEF has procured non-food items and emergency medical supplies to cater for the additional case load; train up to 2,500 village vealth workers in diarrhoeal disease surveillance, case management and rapid response mechanisms for areas at risk of flood and typhoid; and provide water and sanitation facilities.

Still Sister Maphosa said the temporary camp housing the victims faced a number of challenges including limited ablution facilities, a shortage of tents to enable the distribution of at least three per family in order to separate children from their parents, more drugs for the treatment of diarrhorea and other respiratory diseases, blankets, latex gloves and sanitary ware for women. “There are also space constraints at the hospital and if there are floods again we would definitely need more staff,” she said. Extra relish in the form of matemba, beans and soya-mince chunks is also required.

UNICEF and partners, including Childline, Worldvision, Plan International and Save the Children are providing multi-sectoral interventions that include WASH, Education, Child Protection, health and nutrition.

“Authorities planned to keep the camp open for three months before moving the families to another site where new homes will be constructed,” said Macnon Chirinzepi, the Provincial Social Welfare Officer for Matabeleland North Province. “But with a month gone since the relocation, meeting that target may well prove challenging.”

The river waters have begun to recede, and the real extent of the damage is only beginning to come to light. Most villagers are reluctant to relocate from this fertile piece of land, but the price they have had to pay this year has many of them thinking twice.



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