How flooding impacts poverty in Zimbabwe
By Melody Kazel
SEATTLE, Washington — The World Bank reported that poverty is rising in Zimbabwe. Between 2018 and 2019, the percentage of people in poverty increased from 29% to about 34%, which equals roughly 5.7 million people. A 2018 study found a significant link between poverty and flooding in Zimbabwe. While there has been an increase in poverty, NGOs, such as Education Cannot Wait as well as the country’s government, have been working to decrease the ways that flooding impacts poverty in Zimbabwe.
The Connection Between Floods and Poverty
In 2018, The Journal of Disaster Risk Studies published a study about how flooding impacts poverty in Zimbabwe. The study reported that flooding harms the livelihoods of people in Zimbabwe, sometimes causing people to fall into poverty or making the situation worse for those already living in poverty. Another aspect of the study examined the impacts of poverty on flooding. This part of the study showed how poverty can cause people in Zimbabwe to live in low-cost, unstable housing structures, making them more vulnerable to floods.
Flooding has also been shown to have a negative impact on education. A 2016 study on disaster risk reduction examined these impacts. In the Muzarabani District, most students are absent during the rainy season. Only about 50% of students attend school during this time of year. Some students are not able to cross the floodwaters to get to school. The study also revealed that some students drop out because of flooding.
On March 16, 2019, Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe. Education was disrupted when the cyclone hit, impacting 90,000 children. Overall, 270,000 people’s livelihoods were negatively impacted by the storm, showing how flooding impacts poverty in Zimbabwe after a severe storm. On top of this, 4,000 homes were made uninhabitable or were completely destroyed.
As a result of Cyclone Idai, Education Cannot Wait put $1 million toward education relief for children impacted in Zimbabwe. The money serves as a “12-month grant” to provide learning materials, set up safe learning spaces, train teachers and support children in need. The program was expected to help provide 55,000 children with access to education in Zimbabwe, including 27,000 girls.
While Education Cannot Wait is helping restore education in Zimbabwe after Cyclone Idai, flooding remains an everyday issue for the citizens. In order to decrease the ways flooding impacts poverty in Zimbabwe, the government is working to improve disaster preparedness.
The Department of Civil Protection in ZImbabwe focuses heavily on disaster risk management (DRM), which includes, “prevention, mitigation of disaster risks, preparedness planning, timely early warning and response to rehabilitate affected elements.” It focuses on four main aspects of emergency management:
- Mitigation: At this stage, DRM focuses on analyzing the risks of the disaster. The department takes this information and uses it to minimize risk. This step is completed before the disaster strikes. Some of the department’s work in this area has been educating people about the dangers associated with rainfall season in Zimbabwe. The department’s website features a page where people can learn about different types of disasters.
- Preparedness: This stage has a couple of different focuses. First, preparedness is about using available technology to predict where disasters may strike. Disaster prediction is not always effective because sometimes disasters still come without warning. In order to make sure people are prepared in case something comes unexpectedly, the department focuses on advanced planning. It works to design disaster management plans and “risk reduction measures” in order to “result in saving maximum lives and livelihoods during any disaster situation, enabling the affected population to get back to normalcy within a short time period.”
- Response: Response is the first stage that happens after a disaster. The department uses its network in order to mobilize “people, money and assets” to help affected communities. The main goal of this stage is to help people in immediate danger and support the survivors, be that physically, mentally or emotionally.
- Recovery: The final stage focuses on rebuilding after a disaster. Once the needs of those in immediate danger have been met, the department helps people “rebuild their homes, lives and services and strengthen their capacity to cope with future disasters.” While the assistance provided after a disaster is crucial, this stage was created because of the importance of remaining in the disaster zone in order to help the affected community benefit in the long-term.
Humanitarian Response Plan
In 2020, the department launched a humanitarian response plan. Its goal is to address people in Zimbabwe in need of assistance, including those affected by disasters such as drought. Part of the plan is aimed at addressing the 128,270 people still in need of help after Cyclone Idai. While the project is new and no data is available on its results as yet, its goal is to improve the lives of people in need, save lives and create more equitable access to necessary “basic services for the most vulnerable.”
Efforts from NGOs and the Zimbabwean Government aim to alleviate the impact of floods as well as poverty. Though natural disasters cannot be controlled, these efforts may help the country’s resilience during such events. With consistency, these humanitarian efforts may also help alleviate overall poverty in Zimbabwe.