Tokwe Mukosi victims lose their lifeline

Aid agencies this week started withdrawing assistance to more than 3,000 families affected by the Tokwe Mukosi flood.

Agencies have been pouring in assistance to the flood victims, but now say they have exhausted their budgets.

The villagers were moved to a holding camp to pave the way for the giant Tokwe Mukosi dam construction several years ago. The agencies expected them, by this time, to have been allocated decent plots and accommodation by the state.

Although the government is seeking at least $20m for the victims, so far no organisation has pledged a single cent. Instead, they have provided materials and food aid.

The crisis at the holding camp is far from over. Families bundled into tents now risk contracting water-borne diseases after medical help and water supplies have been withdrawn.

UNICEF has already started removing its water bowsers and water tanks – the sole source of clean water for the flood victims.

At least 11 volunteer doctors stationed at the holding camp are leaving, as the funds for their upkeep have also been used up. The chairman of the Civil Protection Unit, Felix Chikovo, who is also Masvingo provincial administrator, said the situation remained unbearable, as heavy rains continued to pound the area, destroying the tents and leaving hundreds to seek shelter under trees.

Chikovo confirmed the withdrawal of assistance by some aid agencies. He said the move would mean more hardship for the displaced families.

Their livestock are in urgent need of vaccination, but the government has run out of vaccines and veterinary staff.

“It is now disaster after disaster, as our life has been miserable since the time we were relocated to this place,” said 42 year-old Leonard Munhanga, who lives at the holding camp.

Apart from promising the affected villagers land on which to farm nothing else tangible has come from the state, despite the government declaring the crisis a national disaster.

“Our main concern is access to clean drinking water and the provision of health services because we have seen water tanks and bowsers being taken away. Only a few state doctors provide us with healthcare and they aren’t here permanently,” said Chiedza Gumbo, another camp-dweller who was forced to drop out of school.

The completion of the dam will end water woes in Chivi district and improve the country’s food security, according to Felix Chikovo.

The dam is being constructed by an Italian company, Salini Impregilo. Work originally started in the early 1990s, but was held up by financial problems. It’s now expected to be complete by August this year.

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