As Zimbabwe battles surging cases and deaths from COVID-19 and fears of a new variant, tropical Cyclone Eloise has devastated COVID-19 mitigation and containment measures. In past weeks the triple threat of COVID-19 cases, the arrival of the new variant and the storm which caused the people of Zimbabwe to lose their homes, their lives, their livestock and their crops resulting in temporary displacement to places such as cramped evacuation camps and crowded resettlement in what is left of their homes. 10,424 COVID-19 cases and 280 deaths that were recorded on 3 December 2020 have since tripled to 33,388 confirmed cases, and 1,217 deaths as of 1st February 2020.  The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling on all actors to increase support for the people of Zimbabwe as they recover from the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Eloise whilst simultaneously trying to contain surging COVID-19 cases. 

Zvidzai Maburutse, Zimbabwe Country Director at IRC, said, 

“The tropical storm, the spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as the potential arrival of a new COVID-19 variant is endangering the lives of Zimbabwe’s population. COVID-19 cases and deaths have tripled from 3rd December to 25th January from 10,424 to 31,646 cases and 280 deaths to 1,075 deaths.

Many fear that travelers brought in the South African COVID-19 variant, which is more infectious, during the December festive season. Information on social media of funeral parlors upscaling services and failing to meet demand have also led to anxiety about the extent of the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of high-ranking government officials.”

“Due to recent flooding and mudslides, many people were temporarily displaced from their homes, losing their livelihoods, crops and livestock. Upon returning to their homes, many have been forced to share the few cramped spaces left undamaged within their homes. The storm has also destroyed irrigation schemes, granaries, kraals and chicken runs for many households who depended on them for their livelihoods. What is especially concerning is that the cyclone has reduced access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, services that are crucial in the fight against COVID-19. The storm has also made it difficult for those affected to stay in line with preventative measures because water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged and belongings, including masks, have been destroyed in the storm.  People in evacuation centers are at risk of COVID-19 due to lack of hygiene support. Many of those affected need soap, detergents, blankets, buckets, water treatment chemicals and mosquito nets. IRC’s  teams are on the ground to provide support but it is still raining. We have reached out to families affected by Cyclone Eloise with emergency items and cash. With more funding, IRC can scale up support to those most affected.”

The IRC began working in Zimbabwe in 2008 to respond to the devastating cholera outbreak and has since significantly scaled up our programming to work with local communities to improve sanitation, access to clean water, safe delivery for pregnant women, and livelihood opportunities and improved agriculture for farmers.