EDITORIAL COMMENT : Kenneth We need to be on high alert

Southern Africa is once again gripped with fear amid indications that Cyclone Kenneth was projected to make a landfall in Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and possibly some parts of Zimbabwe last night.

While there has been some conflicting statements from the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) and the Meteorological Service Department (MSD), with the latter model projections ruling out any possibility of the cyclone affecting Zimbabwe, the country would need to be on high alert.

With Zimbabwe still reeling from the ravaging effects of Cyclone Idai where 334 people died, 347 reported missing while 158 people are believed to have been swept into Mozambique where they were later buried, any possibility of an impending danger — real or imagined — should be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

We would not want to find ourselves in a similar predicament that occurred during Cyclone Idai, where rescue operations started well after the damage had been done and with the situation too dangerous to move in and effect operations during the mudslides and torrential rains.

Had there been a proper mitigation strategy to reduce the impacts and risks of hazards through proactive measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs, the number of deaths, injuries and missing people would have surely been much lower than the recorded figures.

We therefore cannot be caught napping, in the event that Cyclone Kenneth change its direction and head towards Zimbabwe, resulting in loss of life and damage to property.

We are encouraged by the proactive approach the CPU is taking to ensure that should Cyclone Kenneth heads towards Zimbabwe in a flick of a second, we would be prepared to handle the crisis and prevent loss of lives.

Drawing lessons from the unprecedented destructive effects of the recent Cyclone Idai, the CPU has since advised people in flood-prone areas of Mbire, Muzarabani, Mount Darwin, Nyanga and low lying areas that include Masvingo Province and Chimanimani to be on high alert.

Both organisations have said they will be closely monitoring the situation at an interval of every three hours, to enable civil protection organisations to plan and strategise.

The need for preparedness in the event of any eventualities have since been extended to all leadership structures to ensure that the message reaches people that may be affected by Cyclone Kenneth.

It is within the same spirit of preserving lives and further damage to property that we also urge both the Civil Protection Unit and the Meteorological Service Department to also issue regular updates of the situation to keep people abreast of any developments on Cyclone Kenneth.

Social media which is increasingly becoming a fodder of lies is already causing alarm and despondency to an already fragile community, yet to come to terms with the loss of loved ones and the psychological impact of Cyclone Idai by spreading falsehoods. Both MSD and the civil unit will need to step in and allay people’s fears by providing accurate information on the status quo.

In the event that Cyclone Kenneth spares Zimbabwe, we should be in a position to render whatever help we can to our neighbours particularly Mozambique and Malawi where hundreds of people lost their lives while millions are in urgent need of food aid following the catastrophic effects of Cyclone Idai.

What the country went through Cyclone Idai as a nation taught us to reach out to anyone in similar circumstances hence our call for disaster preparedness for both our people and neighbouring communities.

In terms of response towards Cyclone Idai, we did not have adequate resources when disaster struck, due to various competing priorities in health, education, infrastructure, and other sectors. Hence, the bulk of interventions came from locals, our friends, neighbouring countries and the donor community.

Typically, we should be able to work on a model of collaboration to assist in whatever way we can towards the already fragile humanitarian situation in Mozambique as a result of Cyclone Idai.

The support will naturally be required in rescue operations, restore services to damaged health centres, replenishment of essential drugs, and re-establish the cold chain, to support the most vulnerable who require sustained care, including the sick, people living with HIV/AIDS, the elderly and vaccination for possible outbreaks of water borne diseases.

Riding on the philosophy: what injures one, injure all, we really need to be on high alert for Cyclone Kenneth.