EARLY this year, on March 15, the vagaries of nature afforded Zimbabwe a brief, but memorable snippet into a possible future of what the climate may have in store for the southern African nation. A powerful tropical cyclone, Idai tore through the Indian Ocean at neck-breaking speeds, making landfalls in Mozambique’s port of Beira. The violent storm, deemed the most devastating in this part of the world in centuries tore through the defenceless port, ripping apart everything in its path. Such was its intensity that it ploughed more than 300km inland, slamming into Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands: Precisely Chimanimani and Chipinge, where it left hundreds dead and thousands homeless. Weather experts had foreseen the cyclone weeks before, but none, including authorities in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi were prepared for a storm of this magnitude. And two months into another rainfall season, there are tell-tale signs of yet another violent summer ahead after high-speed winds and hailstorms destroyed homes, injured and killed people in their wake in Beitbridge and Mashonaland West.
The question now is: Given the March incident, which Zimbabwe is yet to recover from, and the early warning signs, is the country prepared for any eventuality — violent heavy downpours that may bring with them serious flooding? Past experiences have taught us that when it comes to planning, Zimbabwe has had an appalling record. In terms of disaster preparedness the southern African nation has fared dismally, resulting in unnecessary loss of lives which could have otherwise been saved, if only the country had bothered to prepare for the disasters.
While, the world over, nations have long woken up to the fact that climatic conditions have drastically changed for the worse, with high temperatures, violent downpours, flooding and frequent droughts now the order of day, Zimbabwe appears hardly bothered by the changing climate. Not only is the country facing a high risk of a violent summer, it could also experience yet another drought, meaning that next year’s hunger situation may be worse than this year.
Looking at the most immediate dangers threatening the country, time is ripe for the country to start flooding communities with information on what they should do in the wake of a violent storm and the obvious resultant flooding. As it is, the Civil Protection Unit appears still in deep slumber waiting for another disaster to jolt it into action.
In the past, the unit has found it convenient to churn out bulk text messages on citizens’ phones, but in these matters it would be more prudent for them to go on the ground, so that the people appreciate the gravity of the issue. Climate change is now such a serious concern that governments should not leave anyone behind in understanding what it entails. So, it is imperative that those at the centre of information dissemination should spring into action and work hand-in-hand to save lives and property.