Helping Chipinge children survive Cyclone Idai trauma

By Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

MORE than three years after the devastating Cyclone Idai hit the eastern parts of Zimbabwe, some children, who lost their parents in the floods, are yet to recover from the psychological trauma.

To many, Cyclone Idai is now just a distant memory, but to the Manono family of Muturikwa village of Chipinge, it is a reality they have failed to mentally accept.

The fact that their father was swept away along Chitora River only 50 metres away from their homestead is a daily reminder of their loss.

“Ever since my father was taken away by the cyclone, our lives have never been the same. This affected me greatly because no one can ever take his place. And the fact that it happened while we were crossing the stream together really haunts me up to this day. Every time it rains the images of what happened that fateful day will be replaying in my head,” said Tawanda Manono, a survivor.

“When my father was swept away by the floods I just assumed that since he is a grown-up he will just swim his way back home, but after a whole day and night without him coming home I figured he was gone for real. It took time for me to accept that he was gone, it really pained me because he was my breadwinner,” noted another survivor Tariro Manono.

Government and its partners, which include the United Nations Children’s fund UNICEF, has intensified mental health awareness programmes in Manicaland Province to help survivors to recover psychologically.

Ms Rejoice Gwaindepi, a social worker with Farm Orphans Support Trust said, “Most of the children in this district were really affected mentally, psychologically and even in terms of their welfare as most of them lost their breadwinners. Even their performances at school were affected because of the loss. We are working closely in collaboration with government stakeholders such as the Department of Social Development and also under the UNICEF programme, we have managed to form support groups which are giving these children platforms to share their ordeals.”

With help from government and its partners, many Cyclone Idai victims have managed to pick up the pieces.

While the outside appearance paints an almost perfect picture, the wounds from within continue to bleed, taking a toll on the mental health of survivors.