Villages battle effects of flooding

Villagers in Muzarabani north, Mashonaland east province, are struggling to cope with a growing tide of hunger, maternal mortality and crocodile attacks due to perennial flooding.

Gogo Bvongo preparing lunch of pumpkin leaves.
Gogo Bvongo preparing lunch of pumpkin leaves.

The area, which is relatively flat and situated along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border, is still paying for the floods that began in 2007.

Hamunyari Kamusengezi, a member of one state security services based in Muzarabani, said most people in the area were struggling to make ends meet due to the floods.

“Although floods only occur during rainy seasons, it is now difficulty to survive in areas between and along Hoya and Musengezi rivers,” he said.

“These are the main rivers which heavily wash away most areas down from the Mamvuradonha mountains – affecting areas such as Utete and Chadereka wards, and Kuyeri village to mention but a few, feeding into Zambezi river. Most bridges have been destroyed due to too much pressure from the mountains. The government is no longer reclaiming gullies as they used to do long back.”

Fear of the unknown

People have resisted relocating and always move back after the floods have subsided. Kamusengezi said people in Muzarabani have what they call ‘fear of the unknown’ that is, what will happen to them if they leave their roots behind.

Smart Jackson from Chadereka said it was a mind-set that had developed among the indigenous people in the area and was commonly known as ‘nzvahwa’ – a fear which was entrenched during the struggle for independence that the ancestors would punish them if they leave their graves behind.

This has seen many people suffering helplessly without any idea of how to overcome their socio-economic challenges.

Gogo Bvongo was preparing lunch of pumpkin flowers for her grandchildren.

Crocodile attacks

“Handisisina simba rekufamba kuenda kurukova kunorima sezvinoita vamwe kana mvura yapera saizvozvi nekuti ndipo panovanotombokohwa vachishandisa hunyoro hwenzizi, (I no longer have enough strength to go to the river like others since that is the only way people in this area can produce bump harvest using the moisture along the river banks),” she said.

People crossing the river from a shopping centre in Utete to Chadereka.
People crossing the river from a shopping centre in Utete to Chadereka.

However, stream bank cultivation has exposed a number of people to crocodile and hippo attacks especially children, stream bank farmers and fishmongers.

The Business Community and Civil Protection unit representative, Lovemore Katsa, said at least two children disappeared when they were trying to cross the river from school. “Floods in the area are triggering many dangers to human and livestock, especially people who practise stream bank cultivation and fish mongers,” he said. “Steven Patukani was attacked but managed to fight and survived from the crocodile’s jaws.”

“I still can’t believe I managed to fight back and survived the attack,” said Patukani as he held up his shirt to show his scars. He explained that crocodile attacked him from the back when he was pulling his fishing nets out of the river.

“I ran like a mad man leaving my trousers behind in the mouth of a crocodile,” he said.

Disease of division

In an exclusive interview, the Member of Parliament for Muzarabani north, Alfred Mufunga, said his community was now affected by what he termed a ‘disease of division’.

“Muzarabani is now divided into parts, due to the destruction of crossing bridges by the floods. It is difficult for people to move from point A to point B,” he said.

It has become a challenge to transport pregnant women from Muzarabani to St Albert’s Hospital which is about 73 kilometres for birth due poor roads and lack of crossing bridges. “Most women usually give birth in the scotch carts, which remain the only mode of transport to the hospital. This has seen many losing their new born babies due to lack of first aid maternal help,” said Dambudzo Mugoni, a mother of four. “I lost one of my babies on the way to the hospital,” she said. Dambudzo is one of the women in Chadereka who is a victim of teenage pregnancy. She was married at 17 as the third wife and is expecting her sixth child.

Mufunga said teenage pregnancy was on the increase, caused by hunger and lack of education. “Munharaunda ino iyi vanhu vanoroorana dziri pwere, njere dzisina kana nekukura kwese nekuda kwenzara. Vazhinji vavo vanoperera pagrade seven considering that we only have five secondary schools against 23 primary schools,” he said.

“If we could get funding to build more schools and introduce youth projects, it could improve the livelihoods in the area.”

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