Cholera fears intensify …..as Beira trade flow is severely affected

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TINASHE MAKICHI/ SIMBA RUSHWAYA

The government is on high alert amid fears that cholera may hit areas that were ravaged by Cyclone Idai. The cyclone has so far claimed 185 lives, according to Local gov­ernment minister July Moyo, although he says the number keeps increasing as rescue mis­sions begin to access hardest- hit areas.

In trying to combat the dis­aster, cabinet was also told by Finance minister Mthuli Ncu­be that he had injected a fur­ther RTGS$50 million from the Treasury, bringing the disaster fund to RTGS$100 million. Addressing a post cabinet press conference yes­terday, Information minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said the government was seized with rescue efforts in areas such as Chimanimani and Chipinge where the cyclone caused a lot of damage.

Cases of cholera have been reported in neighbouring Bei­ra, and there are genuine fears that the disease may reach the eastern part of Zimbabwe, where suspected hundreds of people are still missing. Five cases were reported in the port city of Beira, according to As­sociated Press.

“Cabinet received a com­prehensive update report from the chairman of the Emergen­cy Preparedness and Disaster Management Committee on the ongoing rescue and search efforts in the aftermath of the Cyclone Idai disaster.

“Cabinet noted with satis­faction the considerable pro­gress that has so far been made in reopening access routes to the severely affected areas in Chipinge and Chimanimani districts.

“We greatly appreciate the overwhelming response by lo­cal corporates, churches, indi­viduals, as well as cooperating partners and other countries in the region to calls by the gov­ernment for assistance towards the victims of the disaster,” said Mutsvangwa.

She said the immediate task was to make sure inaccessible areas get clean water and medi­cal supplies.

“In the short term we want to intensify the ongoing search and recovery efforts, prioritise the provision of clean water and sanitation, distribution of food relief, medical supplies and emergency shelter facili­ties.

“We also want to hasten the opening of the roads and rehabilitation of damaged in­frastructure. We also want to come up with a contingency plan which should address is­sues of land use planning, ap­propriate housing designs and construction, and, where nec­essary, the relocation of schools and residential settlements,” she said.

Addressing the same press conference, Minister Moyo said 26 areas has not been ac­cessible since the rescue mis­sion started.

“The figures about deaths are increasing every time, but those who have been certified dead are 185 because we give each family $1000 from the government. We are aware that cholera can happen, but we have taken precautions and have an active group that is working on averting cholera.

“We still have places where we have not reached and they are 26 of them.

But we can now access plac­es such as Ngangu, Kopa and Machongwe that were hard hit, thanks to efforts by civil society and Zimbabweans at large. Meanwhile, the flow of trade along the Beira Corridor has been significantly affected. Information gathered by Busi­ness Times during a visit to Manicaland points to the fact that the suspected outbreak of cholera in Beira due to the Cy­clone destruction has made the situation worse. Restrictions on movement of people have since been implemented.

Mozambique is divided into three development corridors that link its ports to inland parts of Mozambique and neighbouring countries: Ma­puto Corridor (south; linked with South Africa and Es­watini), Beira Corridor (cen­tre; linked with Zimbabwe), and Nacala Corridor (north linked; with Malawi and Zam­bia). These corridors include a multiple transport logistics subsector and industrial devel­opments.

Economist Gift Mugano told Business Times that the destruction of the Mozam­bique route is going to have a huge impact on trade and the cost of production for Zim­babwean companies is likely going up. He noted that the Beira route is the shortest and cheapest compared to the Dur­ban route.

“Mozambique is the fast­est route for Zimbabwe to the sea and also one of the major trading partners for Zimba­bwe. Most of our exports find themselves in the Mozambique market. Therefore Cyclone Idai has a multiple ripple effect on trade between the two coun­tries. In an interview, Mutare City Council Mayor, Blessing Tandi noted that the outbreak of cholera in Beira had made the situation worse, because such infectious diseases lead to restrictions on movement of people.

“The movement at the bor­der has been hugely affected and this has been made worse by the issue of a reported chol­era outbreak in Beira,” said Tandi.

“With a trade agreement for the import and export of agricultural produce for pro­cessing having been signed between the two countries in June 2018, the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai will negatively affect trade figures for both countries.”

“The two countries will spend more on resuscitation of road and other infrastructure and this will affect their fiscal budget performances,” said Economist Richard Mawarire.

Mawarire further noted that, most importantly for Zimbabwe, most informal traders were reliant on the Zim-Mozambique boarder for their trade and this is likely to affect household incomes in a negative way.

The storm made landfall near the port city of Beira in Mozambique’s Sofala province on March 14, packing winds of up to 185 km/h and bring­ing torrential rain.

Floods of up to six metres deep have caused “incredible devastation” over a huge area in Mozambique, the World Food Programme (WFP) has said, with homes, roads and bridges washed away.