The UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Zimbabwe Country Manager, Mr. Djibrilla Mazin will sign an agreement on the implementation of the “Comprehensive Resilience Building in the Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts” programme on 19 March 2021 in Harare.
Contributing to the recovery from Cyclone Idai, the project implemented by UNESCO is part of the larger Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP), which is funded by the World Bank and managed by UNOPS. The project aims to reduce the vulnerability of communities in the Chimanimani and Chipinge 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.
Zimbabwe is exposed to multiple weather-related hazards, suffering from frequent periodic cyclones, droughts, floods, and related epidemics and landslides. On 15 March 2019, tropical Cyclone Idai hit eastern Zimbabwe, and at least 172 deaths were reported, more than 186 people were injured and 327 were missing, while over 270,000 people were affected across nine districts, particularly in Chimanimani and Chipinge. Meanwhile, ecosystem damage also occurred where boulders and mud were dumped downhill, affecting wildlife habitats, water quality, tourism activities and usability of land resources. The cyclone’s aftermath has therefore increased environmental risks, which will in turn affect local livelihoods. Loss of vegetation cover means the natural defense against future flood waters and landslides is no longer available. Similar events in future are therefore likely to cause even more destruction.
The flood monitoring and early warning capacities in Zimbabwe are largely insufficient as demonstrated by the Cyclone Idai, resulting in an acute threat to human security. The situation is becoming worse due to the impact of climate change, which is increasing the frequency of these extreme events, especially tropical storms and cyclones, as well as their intensity. More so the Cyclone Idai disaster indicated that the area is susceptible to landslides hence the need to develop landslides susceptible maps which could be useful in land use planning including identifying suitable areas for (re)settlements. According to recent research studies carried out in the Chimanimani District, there are a number of indicators of climate change: declining rainfall, late onset of seasons, increasing mid-season dry spells, extreme temperatures and decreasing crop yields. A clear need is identified to reduce weather-related hazards risk and to overcome the water resource challenges towards sustainable water and ecosystem management, using a climate change adaptation framework.