We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Anteneh Tadele, GOAL

Cyclone Idai A father searches the rubble for his dead children as millions are at risk of food shortages

It is hard to describe the utter devastation of the worst natural disaster to hit the Southern Hemisphere, writes Gabriella Pandini.

THERE IS ONE stark image that will forever sum up for me the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai.

Days after the Cyclone hit Zimbabwe on 15 March, ripping through the country, I was in a village in the Chimanimani district six hours from Harare which had been completely destroyed.

Homes were buried under huge boulders which had trundled down the mountains in an avalanche caused by torrential rains.

I came across a man who was lifting rocks one by one. When I asked what he was doing, he said he was searching for the body of his missing child.

He had already found the bodies of two of his other children under the rubble. Devastated, he said:

All I want now is to find my son and bury him the decent way 

That moment will never leave me.

It is hard to describe the utter devastation and impact of what the UN has said was the worst natural disaster to ever hit the Southern Hemisphere.

Homes were destroyed. Livelihoods wiped out. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters killed and missing. In Zimbabwe alone, 270,000 people have been affected

I have been Country Director for GOAL Zimbabwe for the past two years, based in Harare. I distinctly remember getting that first call from one of our staff about the cyclone.

It was 6 am on Saturday, 16 March and I was at home. Our staff described how the cyclone had hit and said a number of refugees had moved to higher ground out of the refugee camp where we have a programme.

Immediately after that, I got a call from our team in another district to say the local authorities were asking GOAL for support.

We needed to do a rapid assessment of the situation to help establish how many families had their homes destroyed and how many people were missing or dead.

Because we were already working in these districts, GOAL was one of the first agencies to respond to Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe.

We were fortunate that GOAL headquarters in Dublin was able to rapidly raise some funds, which allowed us to mobilise and provide immediate support to the stricken families and communities.

In the two months since the cyclone hit, GOAL Zimbabwe has been able to support over 80,000 people with a combination of inputs ranging from food aid and non-food items such as soap, buckets, jerry cans, and water chemicals –  all with a staff count of 82.

Prior to the cyclone, it was already estimated that approximately 60% of the harvest in Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe was going to be lost due to drought and the infestation of the crops by the fall armyworm pest.

Since the cyclone hit, the few crops that these communities were going to be able to harvest, have been washed away or flooded with water and mud, resulting in total loss of crops. Stored cereals that were soaked in water were unfit for consumption.

In most irrigation schemes, boreholes were submerged. This will reduce the irrigable area unless rehabilitation is carried out quickly.

The UN estimates that there are approximately 5.3 million people in Zimbabwe in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection. This includes nearly 3.8 million people in rural areas, 2.9 million who are severely food insecure.

Today, two months after the cyclone hit, thousands of people have received immediate aid from various aid agencies including GOAL.

However, the next few months are looking bleak for these communities.

They have barely had time to process the emotional and financial loss due to the cyclone because they have been too preoccupied ensuring that those left behind have enough food to take them through the next agricultural season.

The toll of this cyclone in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique goes much deeper than the pictures we’ve seen on our TV screens and in newspapers.  The physical devastation is there for all to see.

The emotional impact on lives is one I simply cannot put into words.

There is a long road to recovery ahead – with the help of our donors and our staff, GOAL will be there. 

Gabriella Pandini is the GOAL Country Director for Zimbabwe.

You can find out more about GOAL’s emergency response to Cyclone Idai here 

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Gabriella Pandini
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel