Livelihoods Lost As Councils Relegate Disaster Preparedness To Peripheries


A PENSIVE middle-aged man stares into the empty space contemplating his next move.
After 13 years of toiling to set up his butchery business in Chinhoyi's
Gadzema township, Jeffery Nyamunda, who is in his early 40s, cannot phantom the sceptre of losing his main source of livelihood that fed his many children from his polygamous marriage.
With three wives to support, Nyamunda is burdened and engrossed in thoughts of what the future holds.
In the blaze, the butchery owner lost a cold room, fridges, meat slicers, scales and motor spares, all with estimated value of US$20 000.
Stock, including three cattle carcasses, was reduced to ashes.
Nyamunda, just like his two co-tenants at Dombodzvuku complex situated at Gadzema rank, suffered huge losses when the building housing their thriving enterprises caught fire on the fateful 14 October night.
The trio of Nyamunda, Chiyamuro Pfidze and Violet Matemere lost their livelihoods after fire consumed their merchandise and property totalling US$75 000.
During a visit to the fire site last week, Mashonaland West Provincial Minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka rallied councils to prioritise procurement of fire tenders.
In August, business operators housed at Super Bake Shopping Mall in Karoi lost goods worth thousands of dollars after a raging fire broke out at the shopping complex.
The inferno is suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault in one of the cubicles.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operators, with help from their employees and passersby, braved the fire and managed to salvage some wares, but most valuable property such as solar panels, TV sets, generators, and clothing had already gone up in smoke.
Karoi council chairperson, councillor Abel Matsika conceded the local authority was incapacitated to deal with fire emergencies.
The Karoi council fire tender is down, just as the one for Chinhoyi.
Both councils rely on other local authorities to come to their rescue.
Chinhoyi relies on Chegutu nearly 100 kilometre away, while Karoi banks on Kariba Municipality 166 kilometres away to assist.
Although Chinhoyi council authorities argue procurement modalities for the fire tender had been completed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, the local authority had gone for years without a functional fire tender.
As a result of the delay in delivery of the essential disaster mitigation vehicle, recently a nonagenarian's couple in Chinhoyi lost valuable property, food and clothing items after their house was gutted by fire.
It is suspected the blaze was caused by a lit candle which was left unattended as the couple and their grandson retired to bed.
Janet Banda (91) and her husband Fidson Mpekeso (92) are still coming to terms with the tragedy, which extensively destroyed their four-roomed house.
The three cited case studies highlight the lack of disaster preparedness of Chinhoyi and Karoi councils, whose fire brigades are as good as non-existent.
A risk and loss control specialist at Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Edward Maisiri saidequipping councils with fire-fighting equipment should be prioritised as saving lives and property is of paramount importance.
"Councils must set aside budgets to ensure losses due to fire and other risks are minimised.
"Urban communities can also set up fire committees to coordinate response efforts in their respective localities, just like they do with crime neighbourhood watch committees," said Maisiri.
He added the fire committees can also engage in resource mobilisation inorder to better prepare themselves for eventualities.
A multi-sectoral approach was needed to empower communities deal with eventualities, he said.
Chinhoyi mayor, Garikai Dendera reiterated the fire department's capacity to deal with disasters must be urgently heightened in the wake of recurrent fire incidents in which property was lost.
"We are fortunate that we didn't lose lives, particularly the fire at the elderly couple's house in Hunyani suburb. However, the need to resource out fire department cannot be over-emphasised," said Dendera.
In view of the fact that the same fire brigades in Chinhoyi and Karoi are supposed to attend to road traffic accidents along the busy Harare-Chirundu highway, there is urgency to appropriately equip and optimally staff them.
Said Fidelis Humba, a civil protection consultant, "Citizens have continued to lose valuable property and at times lives and livelihoods due to the lack of disaster preparedness of councils which should be held liable and forced to make compensations.
"However, the lethargy to capacitate council fire departments all over Zimbabwe, should be blamed on the parent ministry and Local Government minister, July Moyo under whose purview all councils fall.
"We cannot have town clerks, chief executive officers buying expensive personal cars for themselves when towns don't have standard fire tenders.
"Imagine how far we could reduce losses and deaths as a result of fire or road trafficaccidents if all local authorities had fully functional and well-trained fire fighters," said Humba, a former fire officer at Harare City Council.
As provided by the Zimbabwe Civil Protection Act of 1989, central government initiates hazard reduction measures through relevant sector ministries, with local administration taking responsibility for implementing its effectiveness.
Humba opined the Department of Civil Protection, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders should carry out regular fire campaigns using both print and electronic media, trade fair exhibitions and other platforms.
The campaigns must also be incorporated into the schools curricula.
Added Humba, "There should be development of strategy to integrate disaster risk reduction (DRR) and emergency preparedness into the education system in Zimbabwe.
"This will work based on the multiplier effect in the education system to promote a culture of prevention, contribute to greater awareness of disaster risks and readiness for emergencies in the country."
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 that seeks promotion of a culture of disaster preparedness.
The nation also observes yearly the International Disaster Risk Day, which started in 1989 following a call by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to set aside a day to promote a culture of risk awareness and reduction of disaster risks.
This year's commemorations were held in October under the theme; 'Multiple Hazards Are Best Managed In A Devolved Environment.'
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2018, fire deaths in Zimbabwe reached 695 or 0, 59% of total deaths.
Data relating to quantum of property lost to fires countrywide is, however, not available.

PICTURES: (TOP)...The four-roomed house belonging to an nonagenarian couple that was gutted by fire in Hunyani suburb in Chinhoyi.

(BOTTOM)...Dzvombodzvuku complex owner, Godfrey Beremauro and Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka inspect the extent of damage caused by fire that razed the building a fortnight ago.

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