BY EVANS MATHANDA
Climate change has had a great impact in many countries.
Natural disasters are on the rise and Zimbabwe has not been spared.
From Cyclone Japhet in 2003 to Cyclone Idai in 2019, the country has recorded both human and infrastructure loss.
Over the years, these natural disasters have exposed the country’s unpreparedness for disasters.
To date, we still have those who were affected by Cyclone Idai living in tents.
The same is still true for Tokwe Mukosi flooding victims in 2014.
This is why it is important for the national budget allocation process to prioritise disaster risk management in the country.
Considering that Zimbabwe has had a number of disasters which claimed the lives of many people, the government should always have a budget reserved for disaster risk management.
New technologies and better disaster management and risk reduction capabilities are needed, especially in third world countries in the wake of the high number of climate-related disasters around the world.
Zimbabwe needs to embrace modern technologies in monitoring elements of weather and establish more observation stations to provide credible and near real-time data.
Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law minister K Shanmugam said the majority of the 389 recorded disaster events last year were climate-related, affecting almost 100 million people globally and leading to economic losses totalling more than US$170 billion.
Some historical events indicate that Zimbabwe’s Civil Protection Unit (CPU) is not adequately prepared to manage disasters probably due to lack of funds.
Cholera outbreaks can be used as a classic example to illustrate the crisis.
In 2018, former Health minister Obadiah Moyo declared the then cholera outbreak as a state of disaster in Harare.
The government on September 6 2018 notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) that there were 8 535 cumulative cases, including 163 laboratory confirmed cases, and 50 deaths were reported.
According to WHO, 98% of these cases were reported from the densely-populated capital of Harare with Glen View and Budiriro being the most affected high-density suburbs.
At this time and age, cholera must not escalate to a point where it can be declared as a disaster.
Controllable diseases like cholera killed many people in Zimbabwe due to lack of disaster management plans.
The government of Zimbabwe was poorly prepared to deal with both the threat and aftermath of Cyclone Idai.
It’s been about three years now, but some parts of Chimanimani have not been rehabilitated.
In June this year, auditor-general Mildred Chiri reiterated that the CPU was not prepared to deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Idai from the start.
The Unit allowed food and other gifts to rot by keeping them for too long in wet conditions amid delays in the approving urgent payments from donated money, but hired vehicles without contracts and did not properly control fuel use.
Cyclone Idai affected Manicaland and some parts of Masvingo provinces in March 2019 which claimed over 350 lives and some were injured leaving communities in bad state.
Disaster risk budget plans should also include developing strategies and promoting innovations and new technologies in disaster management.
Developing resilient recovery programmes in the aftermath of a disaster is crucial.
Managing the Covid-19 pandemic remains a great challenge, especially in less developed countries due to financial problems.
Being reactive is more costly than being proactive when dealing with situations that one can control from the beginning.
However, Zimbabwe is among the African countries which tried to manage the Covid-19 pandemic when looking at the number of deaths as compared to countries like South Africa.
While dealing with the pandemic at the same time, the government still needs to make sure that our disaster management response remains ready all the time.
The CPU must be capacitated to deal with disasters at their early stages.
Local Government and Public Works minister, July Moyo was last week quoted in the public press saying that the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), which seeks to usher in an upper middle class income economy by 2030 is only achievable if the nation has an effective disaster risk preparedness and management system.
In most cases, the government might believe that they have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place when, in fact, their programme may be incomplete.
Apart from the financial budget, it is important to evaluate the impact of disasters that affected the country before.
Having a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy in place is absolutely critical for the country to ensure that there is quick recovery from unplanned incidents.
Countries that fail to identify, address and plan for disasters are at greatest risk of sustaining a negative impact to their economy.
In some African countries, many information technology organisations continue to face significant challenges in convincing senior management to increase budget allocation for a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.
Surprisingly, more money is channelled to military services, probably as a disaster recovery strategy.
Instead, the government should accept and act on disaster risk management programmes in relation to the NDS1 to make thoughtful steps to mitigate the risks and train staff about the growing likelihood of natural disasters.
- Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity.
- For feedback email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19