Zimbabwe, like the rest of the global community, commemorated the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) on October 13 this year under the theme ‘Home safe home’.
The thrust of this theme is the fundamental need to reduce exposure and displacement as a result of disaster.
Commemorations on this day began in 1989 after a call by the United Nations General Assembly to set aside a day to promote a culture of risk awareness and reduction of risk to disaster.
IDDR seeks to provide an advocacy platform for all governments, local governments, disaster management agencies, UN agencies, NGOs, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, civil society groups, businesses, academic and scientific institutions, and other interested groups to demonstrate support for gender-sensitive implementation of the Sendai Framework and to highlight the related achievements and challenges.
Accordingly, each year has been allocated a particular theme highlighting prevailing concerns.
The year 2016 introduced what has been dubbed the Sendai Seven campaign in line with the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction (SFDR) which was crafted at the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Reduction held in March of the same year. SFDRR seeks to reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, social, physical, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries by 2030. IDDR 2016 with the theme ‘Live to Tell’ addressed the first Sendai target which is about the substantial reduction of loss of life due to disaster.
IDDR 2017 is aligned to the second SFDR target which focuses on reduction of the number of those affected by disaster. It has been observed that despite advances in managing disaster risk, the number of those affected by disaster events continue to escalate.
Indications from research data covering 204 countries are that an average 13.9 million people per year are displaced by floods and cyclones. The apparent increase in global warming tends to increase the risk of exposure to flooding. Countries with the highest levels of average annual displacement or risk to loss of housing due to floods, earthquakes and tsunami are mainly in the South and South East Asia.
Such high levels of exposure and displacement can be addressed through provision of safe secure and affordable housing. Provision of housing must take into cognisance of the prevailing disaster risks.
The IDDR 2017 commemorations were held at Plumtree Town and incorporated Mangwe and Bulilima Districts in Matabeleland South Province. These districts are among the most badly affected areas of the country from flooding and other hazards related to the 2016/17 rainfall season.
Matabeleland South Province is the second worst affected part of the country after Matabeleland North. Records show that Matabeleland South recorded 32 deaths from drowning and lightning strikes with about 50 percent of these deaths in Insiza District.
Homes of 796 households were badly damaged but were still habitable, 118 households or 2 348 people were rendered homeless and 57 percent of these were in Umzingwane District. Livestock losses affected 357 households and 1 436 households suffered crop losses.
Bulilima District was the worst affected in both livestock and crop losses. Damaged water supply sources affected 137 145 people. Forty eight schools were damaged, the road network was extensively damaged and Insiza District was the worst affected in this regard.
Events at the commemorations sought to encourage ordinary citizens to play their part with regards to adherence to siting of homes, the use of appropriate and standard building materials inclusive of regular maintenance of structures. Everyone in the home must know or be taught necessary measures to take to prevent accidents, common ailments and the right measures to take in case of emergency.
Concerted efforts must be made to find out and better understand the dangers that lurk in our environs and to take the necessary measures to reduce the attendant risks. Taking heed of warnings and learning survival skills such as first aid, basic rescue methods, fire fighting and other skills have a direct bearing to reducing exposure and displacement thus ultimately ensuring ‘Home safe home’ for 2017 and beyond.
The 2017/18 rainfall season is forecast to be largely normal to above normal, raising the sceptre of increased risk should the rains be excessive.
This month, November is usually characterised by very hot weather and intermittent thundershowers. The incidence of hailstorms, thunder and lightning is high. Maximum temperature averages 28.5°C during the day and 16.5°C at night.
In case of thunderstorms and lightning, avoid going outdoors, keep away from metal objects, isolated trees, windows, electrical equipment. Do not take a bath or shower. Do not wash dishes and avoid being the tallest object! It is advised to install lightning protection for your home, school and other facilities. Severe hailstorms may cause injury. It is advised to immediately seek shelter. Asbestos roof sheets tend to be damaged by large hail, posing danger to occupants. It is advised to seek shelter under a bed or table in case there is damage on the roof.
November is Kamvubikanini in Tonga, Mbudzi in Shona, Lara in Venda, Hukuri in Tshangani, and ULwezi in SiNdebele. Do you know what November is called in your mother language and the related significance or meaning?
There is need for vigilance for other risks associated with the month of November. Drivers and other road users need to be on the lookout as roads can be slippery and showers may compromise visibility. Farmers need to take note of the first substantive rains in order to timely start cropping.
Historically, there are no records of a major disaster that has occurred in Zimbabwe in the month of November. Let’s endeavour to keep it that way, be good citizens and reduce the risk to disaster! Indeed ‘Home safe home, reducing exposure, reducing displacement’
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