Panafrican News Agency

'No accountability over Cyclone Idai relief assistance in Zimbabwe' - Human rights body

Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) – The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has raised a red flag over the distribution of Cyclone Idai relief aid assistance, accusing the process of lacking accountability mechanisms.  

Since the end of the category three Cyclone Idai storm, which ravaged the eastern part of Zimbabwe between March 14 and 17, there have been increased allegations of looting by officials from the ruling Zanu PF party and government.

 “The supply chain was being managed effectively and efficiently from the provincial level to the district main distribution centre at Silverstream. The Government officials and in particular the Department of Social Services are commended for putting in place mechanisms that ensure smooth flow of processes involving the movement of aid, at these levels,” findings from a new ZHRC report found this week.

“However, the supply chain into the affected communities was problematic as it lacked clear accountability mechanisms. There was lack of clarity and coordination in the aid distribution process," the report said.

As an example, ZHRC observed that at Ngangu Secondary School and Machonjwe Shopping Centre distribution points, there were different registration and distribution procedures that were being used. "As a result, there were different versions of distribution lists for the same location,” it said.

The ZHRC found that this had the effect of opening up the process to manipulation by some local leaders including politicians, and other influential individuals, resulting in the intended beneficiaries losing out along partisan, nepotistic and other affiliation grounds.

“The distribution lists were not informed by a proper needs assessment of the situation for affected families. Therefore, more needy cases were treated the same way with those that were in a better situation. In fact, some of the hardest hit families were grieving and in shock and could hardly assert their demands for assistance,” the report read.

“This contradicted the official position with regards to the prioritisation hierarchy of beneficiaries where the worst affected were supposed to be given first priority. To rescue the situation, coordination meetings chaired by the Department of Civil Protection were being conducted in the two Districts.”

ZHRC stated that these continuous efforts, everything else being equal, should have been cascaded to the community level distribution but were not.

The report comes after government launched a US$612.6 million appeal for Cyclone Idai humanitarian assistance on Wednesday despite the United Nations calling for US$60 million in Cyclone Idai relief assistance the previous week.

Further, considering how government will convert the money into the local currency, RTGS dollars, of the US$612.6 million about US$197.64 million would translate to RTGS$612.6 million  leaving a significant amount potentially unaccounted for.

In fact, the US$612.6 million Cyclone Idai flash appeal made by the Zimbabwean government is more than what the UN made in March under the Zimbabwe Flash Appeal, when it called for US$234 million in donor support in humanitarian assistance to 5.3 million people in need.

Comparatively, Cyclone Idai has left 270,000 people extremely vulnerable, according to the UN.

On Tuesday, Local Government minister July Moyo announced that the deputy director in the ministry of women affairs, Christine Chedeme, was nabbed with goods worth about US$3,000 she had allegedly stolen from the Silverstream relief aid command centre in Manicaland Province.

Manicaland was the hardest hit from Cyclone Idai with winds of 170 km/hr and heavy rains causing flooding, destruction of roads, bridges, houses, cars, and other property on top of the loss of life of over 200 people out of the total of 344 confirmed deaths.

Chedeme is alleged to have helped herself to blankets, shoes and a wide range of foodstuff donated by locals and foreigners towards the plight of Cyclone survivors.

“Govt has made a #CycloneIdai International Humanitarian Assistance Appeal totalling US$612.6 million in the following sectors : Food, Security & Nutrition,WASH, Emergency shelter,Health, Education, Protection, Logistics & emergency, Environment, forestry & wildlife restoration,” Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services tweeted on Wednesday.

In a breakdown of the US$612.6 million appeal, government said US$292 million would go to food, security and nutrition; water sanitation and hygiene (US$51 million); emergency shelter and non-food items (US$75 million); health (US$5.1 million ), education (US$10 million), protection and psycho-social support (US$20 million); logistics and emergency telecommunication (US$155 million); and environment, forestry and Wildlife Restoration (US$4.5 million).

-0- PANA TZ/AR 14Apr2019