By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
07 March 2014
Zimbabwe’s national disaster management group has denied claims that ‘thousands’ of people have lost their lives in the serious flooding that hit the country in recent weeks.
The claims are being investigated by the South African disaster relief group, Gift of the Givers, which said Friday that it was trying to gather as much information as possible about the flooding situation.
The group said that it had received credible information that 10,000 people had drowned and 50,000 people had been affected and were in need of support.
But the state’s Civil Protection Unit (CPU) dismissed these claims when contacted by SW Radio Africa on Friday. Director Madzudzo Pawadyira said during a brief telephone call that “the total number of people who have died across the country is no more than five.” He also said the people classed as ‘immediately at risk’ as a result of flooding was 2,514.
But Gift of the Givers founder and director Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman told SW Radio Africa that the reports they received came from a credible, influential source “and could not be ignored.”
“That information came from a very high source in the country, someone linked to the highest office in the land, who spoke to a journalist friend of mine who is very credible and who wouldn’t lie. The journalist said they know the person so well and they wouldn’t lie either, and that person says 10,000 people have drowned, bodies are floating in the water and the country is in a terrible situation and help is needed,” Sooliman said.
He acknowledged that contradictory information was coming out of the country, with numerous conflicting reports circulating about how many people have been affected.
“The situation is so confusing that we don’t know what to believe. In the meantime people need help. We need to have correct information so we know how to respond,” Sooliman said.
He went on to query the government request for 150,000 tons of food aid, an amount that could feed millions of people and not the thousands the state says need assistance.
Gift of the Givers questioned: “Is there something more serious going on in Zimbabwe that requires food aid unrelated to the floods, or are the floods and those affected extensively greater than what is being presented?”
Observers have also questioned the reason for the government’s appeals for money and food, with some arguing that the flood crisis presents the ZANU PF government with another pot to steal from.
The government has launched an appeal for US$20 million from donor organisations and the international community, focusing mainly on the plight of the Tokwe-Mukosi families, who were evacuated from the dam area at the height of the flooding. An estimated 3,000 people were relocated from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam flood basin to the Chingwizi holding camp in Mwenezi.
Meanwhile according to the group ActionAid Zimbabwe an additional 1,499 households comprising 6,895 people have been affected by the floods in Mbire, Mashonaland Central. The group has claimed that a total of six people are said to have died there.
Gift of the Givers is appealing for more information in order to adequately and swiftly respond to the needs of those affected by the flooding. More information can be found via their website .