HARARE - Zimbabweans have started raising funds and donating goods to provide relief to those who have been affected by Cyclone Idai, which the government says has killed nearly 100 people and displaced hundreds. The government says people are wary of who receives the donations.

At a local church, volunteers arrange donated items destined for places affected by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe. Food, water, blankets, clothing – are all found here. The volunteers then load them onto waiting trucks – provided by donors – to head to Zimbabwe’s eastern border where Cyclone Idai ravaged homes and left dozens dead.

One of the volunteers - Johanne Chapungu Oposi  - is from the affected region. The 43-year-old man tells me that his former classmate and neighbor – together with the classmate's wife and three children, were buried alive when a hill collapsed on them while they slept.

Johanne Chapungu Oposi, who is from Chimanimani wh
Johanne Chapungu Oposi, who is from Chimanimani which was affected by Cyclone Idai, says his former classmate and his family, and a neighbor were buried alive when a hill collapsed on them while they slept.

“But my elder brother and our family survived, when they saw that that’s what was about to happen they quickly escaped. I want to say that the food supplies there and where to stay are a challenge, or even where to buy food; there is nowhere they can buy because the shops are at the steep slopes so they were destroyed too. I feel quite relieved to be seeing these efforts.”

Tadzi Madzima of the non-governmental organization Ignite Youth says she is happy that Zimbabweans have responded to her calls for people to donate to ease the effects of Cyclone Idai.

“We reached out to the youths in Zimbabwe. We went out mainly on social media where most youths are," she said. "The response has been overwhelming. We plan to give everything that has been collected here to people affected by Cyclone Idai. We felt that this is the role that we have to play as young people, to help where we can.”

The Red Cross is one of the aid organizations leading efforts to bring relief to Cyclone Idai's victims. Karikoga Kutadzaushe, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society operations director, says his organization has deployed teams to ensure that the injured are treated and that there is clean drinking water.

“The situation on the ground is quite dire in that accessibility has been one of the biggest challenges considering Tsinde Eastern is a  mountainous area and there have been serious landslides, damaged roads and inaccessibility is one of the worst situations," he said. "To date, we have almost closer to 100 people who have been confirmed dead, 200 closer to 250 are also currently missing and with regards to people who are currently displaced, we have plus or minus 600 who are actually only currently staying on higher ground within the area.”

Government spokesman Ndavaningi Nick Mangwana says
Government spokesman Ndavaningi Nick Mangwana in Harare, March 18, 2019.

Government spokesman Ndavaningi Nick Mangwana told reporters that Harare has deployed army engineers to ensure that damaged roads and bridges are fixed so that assistance can reach the needy. On Zimbabweans responding to calls on social media from organizations and individuals to assist victims of Cyclone Idai, he said:  

"It’s good that we have got such goodwill among Zimbabweans; it’s good that we are all running altogether in one accord to help our vulnerable others, our compatriots who are in a bad state at the moment and in a bad place," he said. "The only thing is we need accountability - we know that in situations like this there is the very fringe minority who will take advantage of the situation...that’s why we say corruption is one of our issues so we hope that there will be systems in place to make sure that whatever is donated, whatever is given ends up at the end user to the point of need where it's needed most."

As the truck leaves Harare for Chimanimani and other affected areas, it is hoped the donations reach the intended recipients – those affected by Cyclone Idai. Nancy Kachingwe is among those who donated items.

Volunteers bring donated goods to be transported t
Volunteers bring donated goods to be transported to Chimanimani and other affected areas by Cyclone Idai, March 19, 2019.

“The sense of if it was if this happens to me what would I do, you know this happens to families and households so we all have to all understand that, you know, in these days of disasters and climate change, it can happen to anybody; any of us can be next where we end up finding ourselves losing everything, so solidarity has to be part of how we live,” she said

Emergency workers have described flooding spawned by the cyclone as the region's most destructive in 20 years. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited the affected region Tuesday.