The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) officially joined the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project on 19 March 2021 becoming the eighth implementing partner for the project. UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Zimbabwe Country Manager, Mr. Djibrilla Mazin signed the partnership agreement in Harare.
UNESCO will lead implementation of Comprehensive Resilience Building in the Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts. The intervention aims to reduce the vulnerability of communities in the two Districts to natural disasters, such as floods, droughts and landslides; and to enhance water resource management as well as ecosystem services in response to the uncertainty of future climate change.
Chipinge and Chimanani were hit by Cyclone Idai in 2019 leaving a trail of destruction and loss of life.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Prof. Gijzen emphasised the need for more proactive disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Southern Africa.
A more focused effort is needed to provide more adequate flood monitoring and early warning capacities for Zimbabwe and to strengthen long term resilience building to water-related hazards.
The signing ceremony happened in the week of the second anniversary of Cyclone Idai which made landfall on 16 March 2019. While the event in itself evoked great sadness and pain for the devastation and loss of lives that occurred; it was yet another wake up call for pertinent issues on climate change and disaster risk management in Zimbabwe.
UNOPS Zimbabwe Country Manager, Mr. Djibrilla Mazin said bringing UNESCO on board to the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project “is not only timely but strategic for resilience building to ensure that when future shocks occur, the destruction of infrastructure and loss of lives will be minimised”.
It is clear with the occurrence of Cyclone Eloise, Cyclone Chalane, as well as the protracted rainy season this year; that we need to urgently address the challenges of climate change. The partnership with UNESCO will fulfil this role for comprehensive disaster risk mapping and resilience building in the Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts.
Taking lessons from Cyclone Idai, UNESCO will help build capacity for flood monitoring and early warning systems. It will also undertake the critical work of preserving natural resources towards sustainable water and ecosystem management, using a climate change adaptation framework. To ensure long term sustainability of the resilience building, the efforts of this project will be embedded as part of the creation of a Biosphere Reserve, which contributes to the sustainable development of the Chimanimani area, in support of better natural resources management.
The Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project started in September 2019. Nearly 240,000 people have benefitted from conditional and unconditional food assistance, more than 383,000 people have accessed integrated health services, over 88,500 students have received learning supplies and 4,500 households now have access to clean water and sanitation services. The integration and complementarity between the UN agencies has amplified the impact of work in the Cyclone affected communities.