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date: 03 December 2022

Natural Hazards Governance in Zimbabwefree

Natural Hazards Governance in Zimbabwefree

  • Thabo NdlovuThabo NdlovuNational University of Science and Technology

Summary

The frequency and complexity of hazard occurrences in rural and urban Zimbabwe has made the governance discourse fashionable in efforts to mitigate the devastating effects in contemporary settings. So common is the reactive attitude at national and subnational levels that hazard governance has been made inescapable in aligning with the notion that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” through design and implementation of context specific interventions. The 1992 drought is one unforgettable occurrence which triggered a plethora of actions such as dam construction, irrigation development, and the establishment of agricultural banks to support recovery initiatives in Zimbabwe. Strides to embrace the role of science and technology are evident through the establishment of research and academic institutions to anchor disaster risk management. Despite these efforts, vulnerable groups, government institutions, NGOs, and donors have invested less than in the predisaster phase.

Subjects

  • Policy and Governance

Introduction

The occurrence of hazards in Southern Africa, and in Zimbabwe in particular, has intensified in frequency and magnitude in the past decades with communities increasingly struggling to cope with the impacts of floods, drought, veld fires, the AIDS pandemic, cholera outbreaks, and transport accidents (Dube, 2015). This development exemplifies inherent socioeconomic, environmental, and political vulnerabilities in rural and urban Zimbabwe as well as challenges that scientists, development practitioners, and policy makers are grappling to address. Equally relevant in reducing the impacts of hazards is the interconnectedness of the vulnerabilities with diverse consequences cascading each time shocks are experienced, making hazard governance a critical discourse in disaster risk management in the Zimbabwean context.

Hazard governance entails actors, institutions, and processes that shape decisions and actions focused towards mitigating the effects of hazards (Melo et al., 2018). The understanding of hazard governance is critical in Zimbabwe as it presents opportunities to generate insights and to unpack the management approaches employed by the government, donors, NGOs, and vulnerable communities when faced with threatening situations. Through good governance, coordination of all involved partners is achieved in managing natural disasters (Jemli, 2020). This makes hazard governance essential in effectively raising awareness to government and partners on the seasonality and speed of the onset of the threats.

The genesis of efforts to mitigate disaster effects postindependence in 1980 in Zimbabwe became evident through the enactment of the Civil Defense Act of 1982 with the hope of creating a favorable atmosphere for managing disasters and emergencies (Dube, 2017). The decision to pass a legislation followed the horrific Guruve bus disaster that claimed a significant number of lives. Important to note is that hazard governance in Zimbabwe has evolved from civil defense to civil protection, with the replacement of the Civil Defense Act by the Civil Protection Act (CPA) in 1989 (Mavhura, 2018). The Civil Protection Act remains the major piece of legislation governing the management of disasters in rural and urban Zimbabwe (Mhlanga et al., 2019). The Act was later revised in 2001 leading to a name change of the department involved from the Civil Protection Unit to the Department of Civil Protection. To improve the operationalization of the Civil Protection Act, a National Civil Protection fund was established to support victims who are identified after a declaration of a disaster by the Head of State. Civil protection activities are coordinated by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works, and National Housing which is empowered by the CPA to commandeer resources to avert disasters (Chatiza, 2019). Central in civil protection is the emphasis by the CPA that every Citizen of Zimbabwe should assist where possible to avert or limit the effects of a disaster. This has resulted in the active involvement of the first responders in every disaster situation in the country.

Despite having disaster management structures at national and subnational levels, disasters continue to have devastating impacts with Prevention Web (2012) showing that between 1980 and 2010, 35 natural disasters (mainly droughts, floods, cyclones, and epidemics) have been recorded in Zimbabwe, resulting in 6,448 deaths. An additional concern to the loss of life is the disruption and erosion of livelihoods in rural and urban settings. To counter the negative effects of hazards, the national government has made strides to infuse disaster risk management into the education curriculum from the primary to the tertiary levels. Furthermore, the Department of Civil Protection consulted with various stakeholders across the country for insights in 2020 towards the finalization of the proposed Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management Emergency (EPDM) bill first produced in 2007 to strengthen the existing legislative frameworks. This follows views that disaster response is reactive and remedial in Zimbabwe (Belle et al., 2017) hence the Government of Zimbabwe and UN (2017) lamented the need to operationalize provisions of the Disaster Risk Management strategy and the EPDM bill is an effort to enhance data management for preparedness and to strengthen the overall resilience of the nation. Following this introduction, this article examines the geographical setting and the risk profile and discusses major disasters in Zimbabwe as well the evolution of hazard governance. Factors supporting and limiting the success of disaster risk management in Zimbabwe are addressed in the conclusion.

Geographical Setting

The country is predominantly susceptible to climate induced hazards such as cyclones, floods, and droughts characterized by long dry spells which consequently lead to high levels of food and nutritional insecurity. Floods are common in low-lying areas of the country with the Gwayi catchment accounting for a significant share of flood events as well as the Runde, Save, and Mazowe catchments. Areas in southern Zimbabwe are largely hit by droughts and dry spells that severely reduce crop yields. The increased frequency and intensity of climate change-induced shocks coupled with low adaptive capacities have deepened and widened vulnerabilities of communities to diverse hazards. Zimbabwe’s exposure to weather-related hazards is compounded by endemic poverty exacerbated by an intense political climate, rapid unplanned urbanization, construction on wetland areas, land degradation, and deforestation.

Risk Profile

Zimbabwe experiences diverse categories of hazards namely hydro-meteorological, geological, biological, and technological (Mavhura, 2016). Based on the historical records of imminence, frequency, magnitude, and geographical coverage, hydro-meteorological (floods and droughts), epidemiological (gastrointestinal tract infections [GTIs]) and technological (road traffic accidents) hazards are the most prevalent. To unpack the country’s risk profile and improve planning at national and subnational levels, Zimbabwe has undertaken a number of hazard/risk mapping initiatives with the support of United Nations (UN) agencies such as World Food Programme and United Nations Development Programme.

The profiling of key hazards affecting the country including their seasonality, frequency, and severity was conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization, and Irrigation Development (MAMID). Profiling hazard risk is critical in supporting the development of preparedness interventions across the country. The tracking of weather-related hazards would be incomplete without the Meteorological Service Department (MSD) whose role is to monitor weather and climate-related matters as well as disseminate information to relevant stakeholders. Based on the information from the MSD, communities invest financial and material resources, hence its importance. The Agriculture Technical and Extension Services has enhanced surveillance in order to extend the tracking of hazards by monitoring crop conditions and the livestock sector. However, more needs to be done to scale up the practice including investment in skills development and improved access to relevant equipment.

Parastatals such as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), which falls under the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Climate, play a pivotal role in managing the distribution of potable water to local authorities in urban and rural settings. ZINWA is also mandated with designing and constructing national water infrastructure such as dams. The monitoring of the hydrological situation nationally is part of the basis of informing and raising awareness on the imminence of extreme events. However, the literature has suggested that ZINWA is constrained in its ability to effectively monitor and relay timely information to critical stakeholders (CADRI, 2017).

Zimbabwe is prone to pandemics; hence, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) operates a disease surveillance tool to monitor disease trends. This surveillance tool is useful in the early detection of diseases and implementation of context specific mitigation measures.

Major Hazards in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is faced with a plethora of challenges which may be natural, economic, social, or environmental in nature. The prevalence of natural hazards has been exacerbated by the climate change effects which have seen an increase in weather-related shocks. Table 1 profiles natural disasters and their effects in the past century.

Table 1: Natural Occurrence in Zimbabwe From 1900 to 2017

Natural hazard

Subtypes

Events count

Total deaths

Total affected (‘000)

Total damage (Million USD)

Drought

Drought

7

-

19122.618

551

Epidemic

Bacterial disease

17

4,900

111.349

-

Parasitic disease

1

1,311

500

-

Viral disease

2

55

1.338

-

Others

2

71

10.102

-

Flood

Flash flood

1

3

1.002

20

Riverine flood

9

271

313.02

272.9

Others

2

259

30.128

103.6

Storm

Convective storm

2

41

2.475

-

Tropical storm

2

8

-

1.2

Others

1

11

-

-

Source: Ghazi (2021).

Drought

Drought is a slow onset phenomenon that heavily affects Zimbabwe (Jiri et al., 2017) as 60% of the population eke a living out of rain-fed subsistence farming (Makaudze & Miranda, 2010) with 70% depending directly on agricultural outputs (UN, 2010). Drought contributes to environmental and economic devastation in arid and semiarid regions (Tefera et al., 2020). Zimbabwe experienced severe droughts in 1968, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1992, 2004 (Nangombe, 2015), 2015–2016 (Mihunov et al., 2018), and 2018–2019 (Frischen et al., 2020). The 1991–1992 drought is one of the most severe events experienced in Zimbabwe and in southern Africa (Ndlovu & Mjimba, 2021). This is a hazard that occurs biannually with huge negative consequences to the agroecological region iv and v particularly the provinces of Masvingo and Matabeleland North and South (Nyakudya & Stroosnijder, 2011). In areas experiencing drought, food and nutrition insecurity prevails and is characterized by compromised livelihoods in both in rural settings relying on water for farming and in urban areas which experience water unavailability for domestic and industrial use and power generation. To counter drought impacts on rural communities, the government, with the support of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), has made significant strides towards improving water access by providing water harvesting technologies and drilling boreholes, as well as the rehabilitating and establishing irrigation projects to support all year-round farming. Furthermore, drought relief committees exist at national and district levels to monitor and devise appropriate drought mitigation strategies. These drought relief committees, chaired by the department of Agriculture Technical and Extension Services, serve as additional resources.

The country has not fully explored remote-sensing techniques for drought monitoring though there is room to exploit this practice (Mutowo & Chikodzi, 2014) for effecting early warning information (Makaudze & Miranda, 2010). The scarcity of drought management instruments in a developing country such as Zimbabwe negatively influences preparedness levels and ultimately suffocates resource deployment. Drought uncertainty is high, resulting from poor prediction which is the primary reason for the escalation of the vulnerability of poor communities as they lack the resources to forecast and cope with unanticipated happenings (Adger & Vincent, 2005). Livestock restocking initiatives through the Command Livestock scheme have occasionally been implemented to enhance the capacities of rural communities to absorb future shocks. Table 2 profiles drought occurrences in Zimbabwe.

Table 2: Drought in Zimbabwe Between 1950 and 2013

Extreme drought

Severe drought

Mild drought

Drought years

1983, 1992

1968, 1973, 1982, 2004

1951, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1970, 1991, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Source: Nangombe (2015).

The 2015–2016 drought did not spare Zimbabwe as rural farmers lost valuable assets such as livestock (Herring et al., 2018). To counter the effects of drought, Zimbabwe formulated a Drought Risk Management Strategy and Action Plan (2017–2025) to offer guidance on the support and implementation of context specific drought mitigation practices. Institutional capacity strengthening is necessary to improve forecasting and investment in proactive strategies to minimize the adverse effects of drought in rural and urban settings. See Figure 1 for an overview of drought risk areas and classification levels.

Figure 1: Drought risk classification.

Flooding

Flooding which normally results from intense precipitation, tropical cyclones, or dam failure has been recorded in Zimbabwe in the last century (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies [IFRC], 2013). Flood occurrences are more prevalent in the southern and northern low-lying areas such as Muzarabani, Middle Sabi, Tsholotsho, Malipati, Chikwalakwala, and Tuli-Shashe (Ministry of Local Government, 2009). The nation witnessed the unfortunate Tokwe–Mukosi incident in 2014–2015 (Tshuma, 2018) which left many families homeless.

A contributing factor to the frequency of flooding is climate change. Flooding is normally punctuated by violent storms with hail and strong winds which damage infrastructure, property, and crops and cause loss of life. Women, children, and single-headed and child-headed families tend to be most affected. In most cases homes, roads, telephone and electricity supply equipment, agricultural assets, crops, and domestic and wild animals are damaged or washed away (Kikwasi & Mbuya, 2019). The institutional and technical capacity exists to reduce the risk and impact of flood-induced disasters with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority’s (ZINWA) focus on the monitoring of river flows and the state of hydrology, while the Meteorological Services Department forecasts and predicts weather conditions. Of concern is the lack of real time data. In collaboration with U.N. agencies and NGOs, the Civil Protection Committees coordinate response at national and subnational levels to counter flood impacts (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Flood risk classification.

Cyclones

The country has experienced tropical cyclones with devastating effects on rural areas. Tropical cyclones have affected approximately 600,000 households and led to 1,000 deaths (Table 3; Chivhenge, 2021). In the majority of cases, these cyclones enter Zimbabwe mainly through the southeast and to a lesser extent the northern part of the country, leaving a trail of destruction. Tropical cyclones are more prevalent in the month of February (Betera, 2013). The cyclones are largely characterized by destructive winds and exceptional precipitation. While the country has experienced a number of cyclones, Cyclone Idai in 2019 was particularly destructive. Idai’s destruction left 270,000 people affected, with 51,000 displaced and 340 dead or missing (Kudzai, 2019). The Chipinge and Chimanimani districts in Manicaland province were the most affected. The level of destruction experienced exposed inherent poor preparedness of communities, government institutions, and NGOs to anticipate and deal with hazards of such magnitude.

Table 3: Tropical Cyclones That Have Affected Zimbabwe Since 1958

Name of cyclone

Year of occurrence

Astrid

1958

Colleen

1959

Claude

1966

Eugene

1972

Danae

1976

Emilie

1977

Domoina

1984

Berobia

1986

Bonita

1996

Lissette

1997

Eline

2000

Japhet

2003

Source: Ministry of Local Government (2009).

Human Diseases

The occurrence of cholera was first detected in 1972 in the Mudzi district in Mashonaland East with Mashonaland Central (Mt. Darwin) experiencing an outbreak the same year. Diarrhea diseases include typhoid, dysentery, and cholera; limited and poor access to portable water as well as poor sanitation facilities are the main drivers of such diseases. While Chipinge and Chiredzi are the cholera hotspots, as of 2000, annual outbreaks were experienced in previously known areas. The 2008–2009 outbreak was unprecedented as it overwhelmed the national health infrastructure resulting in close to 100,000 cases and over 4,000 reported deaths (Government of Zimbabwe, 2013). The cholera outbreak exposed the country’s unpreparedness levels and the low response capacity to deal with emergencies. Beyond the 2009 cases, the country leveraged the health infrastructure and experiences to deal with outbreaks at source, significantly minimizing cases and mortalities. The impact of cholera was exacerbated by the country’s economy which was at its worst from a hyperinflationary situation, making the provision of adequate funding towards health close to impossible. Post 2008–2009, cases and mortalities have dropped due to rigorous awareness campaigns and efforts to improve access to clean, safe water. Access to potable water remains a challenge for some urban areas, especially in drought years.

Table 4: Cholera Cases and Deaths in Zimbabwe Between 2008 and March 2018

Year

Cases

Deaths

No. of affected districts

2008/2009

98,592

4,288

60

2010

1,022

42

4

2011

1,140

85

4

2012

22

1

1

2013

2

0

1

2014

0

0

0

2015

42

0

6

2016

4

1

2

2017

16

3

3

2018

111

4

2

Source: Chimusoro et al. (2018).

Another human disease that the country experiences is malaria, though the Department of Health has in many instances responded swiftly to contain the situation. In general, major malaria transmissions occur at a time when the nation would be experiencing temperatures ranging between 18 and 30 degrees Celsius between November and April. The peak transmission season is February through April. Seasonal spraying and the distribution of mosquito nets in malaria prone areas have significantly contributed to the reduction of cases.

The Evolution of Natural Hazard Governance in the Country

The Legislation Framework

The processes informing disaster risk management are guided by the Civil Protection Act of 1989. In Zimbabwe, the Department of Civil Protection housed in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works provides a framework to support the coordination and execution of emergency and disaster risk management (Mukuruva, 2012). While the Civil Protection Act has been criticized for being outdated, Mavhura (2016) suggested that there is limited evidence support this notion. However, what has been observed is the predominant focus on civil protection and emergency management, as opposed to a holistic approach to disaster risk management. The CPA is complemented by various legislation, one of importance being the Environmental Management Act (EMA) 2002 which was established to enhance and strengthen community involvement in the fight against veld fires. Through the EMA, ward and village committees were established to promote awareness and risk reduction initiatives to minimize environmental damage due to fire and other destructive practices such as the indiscriminate dumping of water and the pollution of water sources.

Disaster Risk Management Bill

As of 2022, the government is developing a Disaster Risk Management Bill (DRM) to strengthen and supersede the Civil Protection Act. The DRM Bill has been revised on several occasions with consultations held in 2020 to align it with the other regional and international protocols. The outcomes of the consultations are yet to be endorsed and passed into law. The DRM Bill seeks, to among other things, to reduce the cabinet committee membership on Disaster Risk Management to 25, constituted by representatives of relevant ministries. Noted in the proposed bill is the value of realigning responsibilities and functions as well as improving funding of disaster risk related activities to a minimum of 1% of the national budget. What is encouraging about the proposed bill is the emphasis on grassroots involvement in pre- and post disaster phases.

The Institutional Framework

The institutional framework for the DRM is guided by the CPA. The institutional system contributing to the management of disasters is comprised of:

1.

The National Civil Protection Coordinating Committee (NCPCC). This was established to support the Department of Civil Protection to discharge its duties; it consists of the Secretary for the Ministry of Health, the Commissioner of Police, military commanders, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, the Director of Prisons, the Director of Civil Aviation, and a representative of the Fire Brigade.

2.

The Department of Civil Protection (DCP). It is housed under the Ministry of Local Government Public Works and National Housing (MLGPWNH) and is empowered by the Act to preside over the planning and implementation of emergency and disaster operations. The DCP plays a secretariat role to the NCPCC.

3.

Other structures aiding disaster risk management include the Food and Nutrition Council and the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Committee. At the national level, there is (a) the Emergency Services Subcommittee and National Food and Water Subcommittee, (b) the National Epidemics and Zoonotic Crisis Subcommittee, and (c) the National Resource Mobilization Subcommittee. At the subnational level are (a) the Provincial Civil Protection Committees, and (b) District Civil Protection Committees.

With all these structures, traces of proactivity are overshadowed by a reactive nature when responding to emergencies and disasters. Equally concerning is that disaster risk management institutions are not well coordinated and cohesive in their approach to leverage existing capitals.

The formulation of the National Climate Change Response Strategy in 2014 was pursuant to the country’s desire to create a nation tolerant of and resilient to climate variation. As part of Zimbabwe’s commitment towards climate change adaptation, mitigation, use of technology, and improved financing, the country ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) despite not having a stand-alone climate change policy and legislation. In 2020, through the UN CC: Learn Programme’s Southern Africa Initiative, Zimbabwe updated its National Climate Change Learning Strategy to address gaps in awareness and learning in both formal and informal settings. The development of this strategy was informed by a multistakeholder consultative process to proffer context specific interventions.

Management Centers for Disaster Risk Management

The country has established research centers such as the Matobo and Makoholi Research Institutions to integrate disaster risk management (DRR) initiatives to mitigate the effects of drought. These institutions work closely with communities in drought prone areas and outside to generate context specific crop varieties as well as livestock breeds to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers.

Factors Supporting and Limiting the Success of Disaster Risk Management

Science and Technology

There are deliberate efforts to promote the use of science and technology in disaster risk management as evidenced by the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to argument response operations. The use of drones during Cyclone Idai demonstrated efforts to rely on evidence-based programming. The increase in the number of universities offering undergraduate and postgraduate studies in disaster risk management is testimony to the recognition of the role of science in preparedness and response. Institutions of higher learning such as the National University of Science and Technology, Bindura University of Science and Technology, Lupane State University, Africa University, and the University of Zimbabwe offer disaster risk management related programs and courses within their curricula. The University of Zimbabwe has at some point participated in the African Union drought monitoring project and is active in flood monitoring.

Politics

The political will to review and update the Civil Protection Act is testimony to the desire to embrace contemporary hazard mitigation strategies. Further, the decision by the Zimbabwean government to embrace international frameworks on disaster risk reduction such as the Sendai may trigger a shift and improve funding from government and other players. The greatest challenge lies in the timing of DRR decisions as quite often they are either delayed or not implemented at all. Political players’ influence on resource allocation has in most cases overlooked investment in DRR.

Legislative Deficits

There are sentiments that the Civil Protection Act is deficient and that it entrenches a reactive culture in the management of disasters (Manyena et al., 2013). This view has been disputed in some circles. Compounding disaster risk management is the fragmentation of legislative frameworks which subsequently breeds the silo mentality.

Funding

Disaster risk management funding is limited, though there is a trend of overwhelming financial support to the response phase. This attitude is evident at a global level where disaster preparedness—despite the benefits it offers—it is poorly funded as compared to the response phase. While funding is poor to support proactive measures, the country has relevant institutions in most disciplines to complement each other when responding to disasters. In Zimbabwe, investment in disaster risk reduction remains as low as other middle income countries (Paunga & Lassa, 2020).

The Economic Situation

The erratic economic situation has contributed significantly to the responsive nature of the various institutions. Coupled with the erosion of the value of the local currency and the ever-increasing prices of basic commodities, planning and implementation of disaster risk management is extremely challenging save for those with access to foreign financial resources. The frequency of hazards has contributed to the economic challenge the country is facing as resources meant to support disaster risk management are channeled towards humanitarian work.

Conclusion

The evolution of managing hazards at national and subnational levels has endured the influence of transformations realized in the political, socioeconomic, and technological spheres. Hazard governance has emerged from the focus on civil defense to civil protection. However, these developments have not transformed hazard governance from reactive to proactive. The reactive nature of managing disasters in Zimbabwe accounts for the high level impacts from cyclones, drought, flooding, and road traffic accidents. The impacts posed by slow onset hazards such as drought reflect the need to capacitate institutions and communities to technically and materially to manage such events. The efforts towards reviewing the Civil Protection Act of 1989 to embrace to disaster risk management approaches will go a long way in moving the country towards proactive thinking in managing hazards. The funding of disaster risk management from the national treasury may be engineered coupled with Zimbabwe’s decision to ratify the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction. Another positive feature is the decision by the government to devolve certain decision processes and this could be exploited to drive the disaster risk management agenda with the inclusion of grassroots structures. There are also efforts to strengthen public partnerships as well as interministerial coordination to leverage financial resources and skills to effectively manage disasters. Despite all these efforts, Zimbabwe remains vulnerable, hence investment in disaster risk management approaches should be prioritized.

Further Reading

  • Bongo, P. P., & Manyena, S. B. (2015). From “government” to “governance”: Tensions in disaster-resilience leadership in Zimbabwe. Journal of Disaster Risk Studies, 7(1), 1–10.
  • Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. (2012). Natural Disasters in Zimbabwe.
  • Chikoore, H., Vermeulen, J. H., & Jury, M. R. (2015). Tropical cyclones in the Mozambique Channel: January–March 2012. Natural Hazards, 77(3), 2081–2095.
  • Dube, E. (2015). Improving disaster risk reduction capacity of District Civil Protection Units in managing veld fires: A case of Mangwe District in Matabeleland South Province, Zimbabwe. Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies, 7(1), 1–13.
  • Mavhura, E. (2020). Learning from the tropical cyclones that ravaged Zimbabwe: Policy implications for effective disaster preparedness. Natural Hazards, 104(3), 2261–2275.
  • Murwira, A. (2015). Flood plain management framework for Zimbabwe. A report prepared for and presented to the Zimbabwe Department of Civil Protection, University of Zimbabwe, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Unpublished.
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2016). Mapping of selected hazards affecting rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe: A district and ward analysis.
  • World Health Organization (WHO). (2011b). Mortality road traffic deaths.

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