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FEATURE STORY September 16, 2019

Restoring Zimbabwe’s Livelihoods, Infrastructure After Cyclone Idai


@ Dorte Verner/World Bank


  • After massive devastation in Zimbabwe from Cyclone Idai, a new World Bank-funded multi-sector operation will advance recovery and resilience building to prevent a development crisis
  • Approximately 270,000 people have been affected, with estimated direct damages of $622 million.
  • The financing will help mitigate the impact of Cyclone Idai on the nine most affected districts of Zimbabwe

HARARE, September 16, 2019 – In the months after Cyclone Idai, one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit the country, scarred mountains remain with some impassable roads and many lives lost. Schools have reopened with inadequate infrastructure and resources in an attempt for normalcy.

In Chimanimani, a mountainous area in eastern Zimbabwe, acres of devastation confronted Edgars Seenza, Acting Provincial Development Coordinator for Manicaland Province.

“The destruction was beyond our wildest imagination as we could not have foretold the magnitude of the cyclone that saw water defying mountains resulting in mudslides,” Seenza recalled of the first days after Cyclone Idai made landfall. “In only three days, 600 millimeters (mm) of rain was received.”

In one month of a normal rainy season in December, Chimanimani receives about 200-250 mm of rain. The cyclone caused estimated direct damages of $622 million and significantly damaged infrastructure, properties, crops, and livestock. It is estimated that to “build back better” requires up to $1.1 billion.

As the recovery process unfolds new initiatives and financial resources are required to reclaim livelihoods, rebuild infrastructure and ensure that a similar calamity never has the same devastating consequences. In response to developmental assistance required by the most affected communities, the World Bank approved an exceptional allocation of $72 million to the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) which aims to “address the early and medium-term resilient disaster recovery needs of cyclone-affected people.”  ZIRP, which is financed through an International Development Association grant, became effective in July and was formally launched in Harare on September 2, 2019. Given Zimbabwe’s non-accrual status with the World Bank, the ZIRP was processed and financed on an exceptional basis, underscoring the unprecedented humanitarian crisis caused by Cyclone Idai.

 “The project will utilize the Bank’s comparative advantage in medium-term recovery and resilience building, facilitation of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus initiative and marks its first ever integrated engagement with a range of UN agencies under one project umbrella, while being closely coordinated by the Government,” said Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vasquez, World Bank Regional Director for Social, Urban and Rural Resilience

Through a surge of high-impact and immediate interventions in partnership with various United Nations agencies, the ZIRP aims to enhance the coping capacity of affected communities across multiple sectors, such as water, sanitation, education, health and disaster risk mitigation and preparedness, benefitting as many as 270,000 people.

Drawing on experience from elsewhere in Africa, a Zimbabwe Recovery and Resilience Framework (ZRRF) is proposed to contribute to the strengthening of Zimbabwe’s capacity and systems for recovery and resilience coordination and disaster risk management and mitigation. It is envisaged that once developed this framework will be scaled-up and applied more widely to support recovery and resilience-building across the country.

Using evidence-based analysis and a bottom-up consensus building methodology, the ZRRF will identify recovery and resilience building priorities and propose a financing approach and institutional arrangements by which can be acted on by the Government and its international partners. The Bank will contribute to the ZRRF through an approved grant from the State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF). This grant will also help strengthen the government’s response systems at local levels, to facilitate links between the UN-implemented project and national efforts to promote better development planning and disaster preparedness going forward.