Floods expose our unpreparedness

Source: Floods expose our unpreparedness – DailyNews Live 23 January 2017

HARARE – Zimbabweans are dangerously unprepared for the natural disasters
most of the country is exposed to if the latest incessant rains and
subsequent floods are anything to judge by.

Government’s response to prolonged flooding in various areas of the
country exposes weak political accountability.

For a nation coming out of a devastating drought, the latest natural
disaster across the country’s cities, towns and rural areas illustrates
how weak political accountability mechanisms are aggravating the human,
economic, ecological and financial cost of the current floods.

The situation is likely to get worse in the coming  days amid indications
that more heavy rains are expected in the country after a number of
low-lying areas have already been seriously affected by flooding.

The Meteorological Services Department has warned that more rains are
likely to fall this month, causing more problems for a country struggling
to deal with the effects of monsoon type of rains.

There are reports that an eight-hour storm pounded Gwanda South last week,
washing away three dams and crops in its wake.

Mud huts were destroyed and livestock was swept away following the storm
that left a trail of destruction in the impoverished constituency.

The same story has been repeated in areas such as Gutu, Chipinge and
Muzarabani among other areas in the country with the majority of people
losing their livelihoods to the natural disaster.

However, despite the flimsy excuses being given by the government, the
real problem is not the heavy rainfall that has been pounding the country
but the prolonged delay in getting the water off the land.

Investigating this problem reveals serious deficiencies in rehabilitation
and maintenance work on the country’s drainage systems. The failure to
efficiently complete these works for the past few years reflects too much
government interference in council programmes and overly centralised

Impromptu meetings between citizens and political figures last week in
Harare provided, to date, the only opportunity for affected communities to
learn about certain major decisions.

Such meetings are, however, no substitute for statutory mechanisms to
engage citizens’ views in systematic consultation at local and national
levels. This dismissive culture should be replaced by systematic community
consultation on all social issues.

Currently, communities are robbed of any influence they have over
decisions that affect them because of the absence of effective
accountability to them about disaster responses.

The current thinking on disaster relief, which reduces – and at times even
disregards – community involvement, is defective and disempowering and we
recommend that it be corrected.