Post Cyclone Idai Depression Stalks Chimanimani

  • News chronic ailments cases recorded
  • Both health workers and affected communities need psychosocial support

FARAI Jochoma is by no doubt the most famous fast food dealer in Ngangu, Chimanimani. His makeshift food spot is a hive of activity throughout the day as foodies and local youths gather at his place to buy food or play a game of pool.

By Michael Gwarisa recently in Chimanimani

His heavily built stature and ever laughing personality hides a story.  A story that is born out of pain, grief and loss of friends and family who perished at the hands of the Tropical Cyclone Idai which descended on Chimanimani, Chipinge and some parts of Masvingo in March this year.

For people like Farai, memories of the disaster are still as fresh as morning dew and without proper psychosocial assistance, many might slide into worse chronic and mental health disorders.

Whenever I see clouds gathering in the sky, I get anxious, I can’t stop imagining another Cyclone is about to hit us. A few days ago, we experienced some precipitation and everyone was on high alert. We were all planning to move to high ground had it continued raining.

“Everyday I wake up and do my job as if everything is ok but the thought loved ones we lost and houses that were destroyed always haunt us. I have to be strong and make sure I make the best out of what I do,” said Jochoma during a Post Cyclone Idai media tour that was organised by the World Health Organsiation (WHO), UNDP and the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC).

Picking up after Cyclone Idai disaster, young men at Skyline, Chimanimnai enjoy a game of pool

The depression and stress has not spared health personnel in the Cyclone Idai affected areas as most confessed to suffering from amnesia and mental health related disorders. Angeline Bhodlo, an Assistant Pharmacist at Chimanimani Hospital whose house was destroyed by the Cyclone Idai said she feels her mental health status is no longer in a good state.

“I was on night shift the night the Cyclone Idai struck. I was one of the first people to attend to those who were brought here since majority of the stuff had gone for the weekend. My house was destroyed and one of my kids was swept away by the water only to be rescued by neighbors.

“I am now living in a tent and there is no hope we will get houses anytime soon. Its stressful, I am not used to that kind of life. At times I fail to dispense medicines correctly, I have become forgetful at times and it’s now worrisome,” said Bhodhlo.

However, health workers feel there is need mental health counseling and psychosocial support for community members and health workers who were affected by the disaster.  Sister Beauty Mucharira, a Nurse at Chimanimani Hospital called on government to come up with comprehensive psychosocial support programs for health workers in the Cyclone Idai hit areas.

“When disaster struck, I was here, I stay in the complex. We attended to so many people during that night. The people were injured severely, the wounded were very deep and needed extra care and treatment.

“I would say during the first month soon after the Cyclone, I went through depression as a result of the cyclone. I would say I am better now and at times I get the comfort from seeing that the people I helped are still walking alive. However, in terms of psychosocial support, we have not yet managed to get Psychosocial due to our busy schedules, we hope government comes up with programs to assist health workers and communities regain their psychological well-being,” said Sister Mucharira.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCR’s), Psychosocial support is an integral part of the IFRC’s emergency response as it helps individuals and communities to heal the psychological wounds and rebuild social structures after an emergency or a critical event. It can help change people into active survivors rather than passive victims.

Meanwhile, Chimanimnai district is currently battling increased cases of chronic ailments such Hypertension and Diabetes as a result of stress incurred from the effects of the cyclone. Even though we could not get the exact number of new depression cases in Chimanimani, the health workers confirmed that increased new cases of Hypertension and other chronic ailments were being reported.

Chimanimani Hospital Nurse if Charge, Sister Tendai Masvaure said there was a worrying increase in cases of Hypertension in particular while other conditions such as diabetes and depression were also on the rise.

“We are now dealing with cases of Hypertension. For the hypertensive patients, the number has actually increased. At first we had a problem because most of the medications were washed away.

“So we had quite a number who didn’t have some medications for like two weeks or so, who were not taking anything until we received some medications from the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NATPHARM) and from other partners like MSF,” said Sister Masvaure.

Chipinge Acting District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr Ozimmo Matekenya however said most post mental illnesses are going undetected since most of these cases are difficult to diagnose.

“Psychological trauma is a very big challenge and I know it’s very difficult to diagnose and to treat it. But we are getting patients with post-traumatic stress disorder secondary to Cyclone Idai. These are the patients that will have a psychological derailment following the loss of a loved one or loss of property so it’s a very big burden, we cannot measure it because most of the cases are they are under diagnosed or they are difficult diagnose.

“They range from manifest to depression. We have actually met a person with severe major depression because of loss of a mother,” said Dr Matekenya.

Manicaland Province Medical Director (PMD), Dr Patron Mafaune told HealthTimes that they were working on identifying a partner whom they would work with in providing psychosocial support to healthcare workers and communities to ensure they recover from the psychological wounds from the Cyclone.

“We are currently working on ensuring health care workers get the psychosocial support they need. The Cyclone affected communities in Chimanimani and Chipinge in a bad way. Even health workers were affected and this has also affected their psychological wellbeing.

“We are working on advancing psychosocial support to health workers who were affected by the Cyclone. We are planning an outdoor psychosocial support initiative with all the health workers who were affected. We shall be notifying you of the organisation we would have identified very soon,” said Dr Mafaune.

Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe in March 2019, causing extensive damage worth an estimated US$622 million. Over 50,000 households were destroyed, directly affecting 270,000 people, including 60,000 who were displaced. Up to US$1.1 billion is needed to support Zimbabwe’s recovery and restore damaged infrastructure and livelihoods.






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