By Donald Nyarota
Mutare — Seven months after Cyclone Idai ravaged the eastern parts of the country leaving a trail of destruction to infrastructure, displacements and deaths, a Manicaland based civil society grouping has urged government to formulate a relief strategy that will see the survivors of the deadly cyclone putting a lid on the catastrophe.
The civil society noted with concern that more than 300 people’s whereabouts are still unknown and without proper documentation.
This was brought about by the members of the Manicaland Peace and Reconciliation Committee, who are pushing for psychotherapy and closure to the Cyclone Idai disaster as well as practical approach to disaster management.
The development came about after a submission by a local psychotherapist Dr Mazvita Machinga who made it known that there were reports from Cyclone Idai survivors who are being haunted by their missing relatives who perished during the cyclone, who are even giving them instructions on how to exhume their bodies.
Dr Machinga said there were serious traumatic experiences from the catastrophe hence a need for stakeholders involved to step up psychotherapy to assist communities to move on from the claws of the disaster.
“Families of those who perished during the disaster are reporting that they are having dreams of their missing relatives with instructions of where to exhume their remains of which most of them are said to have been washed away to Mozambique.
“Some of the family members having these dreams are no longer enjoying life over the recurrence of these night visions. These are some of the things that people are struggling with and they can not tell whether they are hallucinations or real.
“What is now required is for us to step as a committee and make sure these people get professional help to deal with trauma once and for. We know very well that if this is not done, these people will tend to face the same problems six months, one year or five years down the line,” said Dr Machinga.
Chairman of Manicaland Peace and Reconciliation Committee chairperson, Dr Solomon Mungure weighed in and challenged the government to provide relief for affected families and solutions in accessing resources that were left behind by missing persons.
“We are very sure that certain people disappeared and their bodies were not recovered or exhumed, but we cannot declare that someone is dead until such a time which is stipulated legally. We also know very well that the pernson or persons were sleeping the house during the disaster hit and it is most likely and of course a probability that the person might have been washed away or buried under rubble.
“It has been documented that over 300 people are missing but the fact that they are still missing also tells us that they have not been found anywhere, if they have not been found we can also conclude that they might be dead,” said Dr Mungure.
However, Dr Mungure said it was sad to note that players that have been helping are not moving in to provide services and relief to the families left behind in order for them to move on with life.
Provincial Social Welfare Officer, Charity Ndadzungira also challenged the government to ensure closure to Cyclone Idai disaster issues by documenting missing persons.
She said there have been conflicting statements over how government was dealing with issue of missing persons, with indications of people being exhumed for reburial in their communities hanging in limbo.
“We are pushing towards that whatever is going to happen let it happen now so that closure process becomes easy for the families that were affected.
“Initially, word was that persons that were washed away were going to be exhumed and reburied in their communities but it seems government is now silent, as a committee we need to help out because all these issues have to do with closure.
“There is no closure for the families left behind, yes there has been partial closure in terms of birth registration but we are not sure whether there was death registration in terms of those that went missing, which is one area that we need to look at,” said Ndadzungira.
“We need to push for death registration of those that went missing so that the families left behind can access some of the benefits left by those declared missing, some had life policies and pensions which cannot be accessed without death certificates.”
Former Mutasa South, Member of Parliament, Irene Zindi, said communities faced with disasters are not accessing adequate relief because of a concentration on bureaucracy, at the expense of victims.
She said government should adopt a practical and solution driven approach when dealing with disaster related risks.
“Government needs to deal with real issues and adopting a practical approach towards disaster risk management.
“Now there seems to be concentration on bureaucratic issues, forming committees and canvassing for expertise when there are immediate issues which can be addressed, like burying people some were buried in advanced state of decomposition.
“It ii a known fact that those people were washed away, so how long should we wait? Another five years in order to declare that person dead and yet we know that the implications and impact of this to somebody who is left living in that family? This has to be dealt with and the chapter should be closed immediately,” said Zindi.