When Cyclone Idai struck southeastern Africa on March 14, the storm destroyed more than 18,000 homes. The U.N. estimates that over 130,000 people are still in temporary shelters. The death toll is now 598 and expected to rise as officials reach remote areas to assess the damage. And in the wake of the storm, over 2,000 cases of cholera have been reported so far.
Some 148 people live on Rathmore Estate, a vast plantation in Zimbabwe that produces, timber and macadamia nuts for export. Only in the past week have medical charities and community village health workers begun to provide care for the farmworkers and their family members.
Matthew Chidambazina, 42, who lives on the estate, suffered severe arm and leg injuries after the roof of his home collapsed. It took seven days for medics to reach him. “I had deep cuts that went right to the bone and I needed stitches, but I couldn’t get to the hospital on time,” he says. “By the time the doctors came to the farm, they said it was too late [for stitches] so I’ve just been put on painkillers and antibiotics to reduce infection from the pus in the wounds.”
His co-worker, Tichanai Mutungwe, 38, bears both physical and emotional pain. He badly injured his arm while trying to save his 16-month-old child from being taken by the flood waters. The current was so strong that he couldn’t hold onto her. Days later, Mutungwe found his daughter’s body at the bottom of the slope from the farmworkers’ houses. Mutungwe’s right hand has deep lacerations and his chest hurts from being dragged by the muddy waters. He’s been improvising to treat his injuries. “I use betadine to clean my wounds, but we don’t have enough bandages or painkillers for my hand.” And he feels he must recover quickly: “I’ve lost so much, but as a man I have to get back to work as soon as I can to feed my family. They need me to provide,” he told NPR.
Maidei Masawi, the village health worker for the Rathmore area, told NPR, “I’ve been asking for simple things like painkillers, but we can’t get them,” says Masawi. “There are small babies who are coughing and have this flu that won’t go away, but there’s nothing I can do for them. I can only wait to see what we can get from the outside aid.”
Health providers are still struggling to reach people in remote areas. “We are making efforts to get to the patients in the field and we try to give them what they need, but the major challenge is accessibility,” says Farai Marume, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (Medicines Sans Frontieres). “We’ve tried to send some medications and team to assist at Chimanimani Rural Hospital, we have a list of the gaps and we’re still trying to meet those gaps with our other [NGO and government] partners,” he said.