Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Government has said emergency response teams need to be capacitated with requisite equipment so that they can effectively react to disaster incidents and save lives.
In a Ministerial Statement in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Deputy Minister Marian Chombo said the urgent need to adequately capacitate disaster response teams came up following the Binga floods when an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter failed to reach affected communities.
The floods claimed one person while 34 households were marooned in Nsungwale village under Chief Sinakoma in Binga.
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) safely evacuated the 34 marooned families on Monday.
“Long term recommendations (include); capacitating of all civil protection organisations such as the Air Force of Zimbabwe, sub-Aqua Unit and Department of Civil Protection with all-weather equipment in order to timeously respond to the vagaries of climate change. For instance, one helicopter was dispatched yesterday but it could not proceed from Gokwe North because the weather did not permit,” said Deputy Minister Chombo.
“On the Sub-Aqua, we only have four points in Zimbabwe which is Chikurubi, Buchwa, Changazi and Fairbridge. Fairbridge is the one which is close to Bulawayo so sometimes the response time is increased. The sub-aqua units are not close enough to areas affected by disasters to effectively react to emergency scenes.”
She said funds permitting, Government has long term plans to relocate communities living in low lying areas to higher ground as was done with Tsholotsho flood victims to avert similar disasters.
“If resources permit, there must be a robust rural housing delivery programme to address issues of sub-standard materials used,” Deputy Minister Chombo said.
She said following the Binga floods, Government has dispatched aid to assist victims of the natural phenomenon.
Deputy Minister Chombo said the CPU has started providing food, tents and cooking utensils to villagers who lost their property during the floods. “The District Civil Protection Committee is to continuously monitor the general health and condition for those with chronic illnesses who are being provided with medication. The welfare of people for possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases is also being monitored. Ministry of Finance and Economic Development is replenishing the department of civil protection budget to cater for travel and subsistence expenses for the responders,” she said.
Deputy Minister Chombo said Government has also distributed cellphones to chiefs to strengthen disaster communication at grassroots level.
“Just to re-emphasise on that, on the Binga issue, the Government through POTRAZ has acquired 17 cellphones and we have sent them to the 17 Chiefs in Binga, we have also acquired seven cellphones from Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and given them to seven District Administrators in Matabeleland North and seven District Administrators in Matabeleland South and two PAs for Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South,” she said.
Deputy Minister Chombo said POTRAZ should provide network access infrastructure in remote areas to ease communication challenges. “We have also engaged them to try and improve on the network, especially the boosters as you heard that they had to travel long distances to report this disaster. So, we are strengthening the traditional leaders on the ground as a first port of call whenever a disaster happens,” she said. — @nqotshili