Evaluation of Zimbabwe disaster rapid response mechanism

Contextual Background

Globally, there are concerted efforts being directed towards reducing disaster risks particularly in developing countries where the vulnerability of people, their assets and livelihoods are increasing due to natural hazards. The international principle of common but differentiated responsibilities also sees different forms of support being channelled from the more developed countries to those less developed. In the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) where Zimbabwe is domiciled, there is a rising trend of vulnerabilities to droughts, floods, storms and epidemics among others. These hazards arbitrarily impose a heavy burden on the majority of the poorer population, worsening their food insecurity, exposing many of them to gender-based violence, communicable diseases, reduced access to pertinent health services and compounded socio-economic setbacks. In that respect, a Rapid Response Management Unit (RRMU) implemented is of paramount importance and a comprehensive rapid response framework for rapid onset emergencies in Zimbabwe. The targeted provinces were Harare, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North.


In order to achieve the set objectives, a concurrent mixed methodology approach was adopted in conducting the study. Qualitative data was gathered using desk review, key informant interviews as well as in-depth interviews. On the other hand, quantitative data were collected using KoBo ToolBox, a real time data collection application. Mixed methods enabled triangulation of the data collected from different sources including participants from the consortium (5), government officials involved in the project (12) and project beneficiaries (399). Data was collected virtually, balancing between the COVID-19 pandemic risk reduction protocols and containment measures, without compromising the data quality.

Summary Findings

The Zimbabwe Disaster Rapid Response Mechanism’s (ZDRRM) relevance lies in addressing a critical gap by responding to localised disasters that were ignored or not attended to by existing national response mechanisms. The ZDRRM is fully aligned to the Zimbabwe Humanitarian Response Plan that emphasises the need to cover all the four key sectors namely education, protection, food security and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH). Overall, the ZDRRM responds well to the needs of the community, and is fully aligned to the Zimbabwe Humanitarian Response Plan and used existing structures, skills and knowledge to respond to the crises. [1]


Through the ZDRRM project, affected populations were supported with WASH and Non Food Items (NFIs), Cash transfers, and shelter, as applicable. Based on findings from the ZDRRM evaluation, the majority of survey participants (94.3% Bulawayo, 91.8% Harare, 91% Manicaland and 100% from Midlands and Masvingo Province) indicated that they indeed received humanitarian assistance upon having encountered a disaster. In working with existing structures District Civil Protection Committee (DCPC) and Disaster Risk Reduction Committees (DRRC), including with traditional leaders who took a leading role at community level. The rapid response efforts were  strengthened particularly in terms of timely, safe and accessible humanitarian assistance. The DCPCs were provided with the needs assessment tool to enable them to identify emergencies and subsequently allow for response within 72 hours.

Schools in Manicaland were particularly affected by heavy storms that destroyed school blocks and resulted in the discontinuation of learning. The ZDRRM project responded effectively through providing temporary learning spaces such as tents, and learning materials, enabling the school to provide a safe learning environment. Taking cognisance of the “do no harm principle”, the ZDRRM action trained communities on prevention of violence, abuse and exploitation. When participants were asked, if they believed that the assistance they received was distributed in a fair and equitable manner, 93.9% in Bulawayo, 82.2% in Harare, 77.4% in Manicaland, 86.9% in Midlands and 89.5% in Masvingo agreed with the statement. However, community members engaged in the end-line evaluation indicated that jealousy and anger fuelled disgruntlement among some community members who did not receive any type of assistance.

The action’s strategy was to establish a Rapid Response Mechanism for Zimbabwe that would respond to, and strengthen coordination for rapid onset disasters. Hence, coordination was an important result area for the ZDRRM action at different levels including within the consortium, government structures, and other stakeholders and at community level. There was effective coordination and collaboration among consortium members. Coordination of the strategic and complementary expertise and nationwide operating presence of the consortium members resulted in a seamless approach to the response and a shared vision of the best possible outcome. By midline, the mechanism had benefited 869 children (413 girls and 456 boys) in Chipinge and Buhera districts through the provision of temporary learning shelters, teaching and learning materials as well as dignity kits for adolescent girls.

In all, 820 beneficiaries (166 girls, 196 boys, 248 women and 210 men) were reached by midline, through WASH, hygiene, protection and shelter kits distributions, which were conducted in Chipinge and Chiredzi where household structures were affected by the heavy rains. The ZDRRM project also distributed 280 tapped buckets, 160 soap bars and 170 coveralls to 7 districts of Masvingo province. Through the Provincial Office and the Lean Season Assistance communities in Bulawayo, the project distributed 580 tapped buckets reaching 2,350 (1,260 females; 1,090 males) individuals.

The ZDRRM action made use of the multipurpose Cash transfer (MPCT) system which was an unrestricted cash transfer modality that people affected by disaster used to cover their basic needs. By its nature, the MPCT offered affected people a maximum degree of choice, flexibility and dignity, as they were free to decide which basic needs they wanted to cover and how they preferred to cover these basic needs. In some areas, affected people had recently harvested and had sufficient food, and so they used the money for other needs including start-up capital and buying construction materials like cement.


There were aspects of some interventions that contributed to sustainability. In Matabeleland and Manicaland provinces, the project drilled boreholes following an outbreak of waterborne diseases. The communities were devastated by water shortages, which resulted in poor hygiene, hence the spread of diseases. In addition to reducing water borne diseases, drilling of boreholes supported agriculture projects and related household needs, presenting a long-term solution to water challenges that goes beyond the life of the project.  In Harare, Bulawayo and Chipinge, the project assessed community needs, and resolved to solarise existing boreholes. Solarisation of boreholes presented a more sustainable way of maintaining availability of water in the target areas. The knowledge and skills obtained through the project interventions will be used well into the future. In addition, the project empowered communities on how to respond to disasters, including reporting disasters to Civil Protection Units.

Key Lessons Learnt

Key lessons learnt from the ZDRRM project implementation process include that, coordinated and timely response saves lives, multi-stakeholder collaboration, synergy enhances project impact, and conducting a needs assessment and hot spot mapping enables the project to respond adequately to the needs of affected communities.


Through the ZDRRM project, the RRMU addressed gaps, weaknesses and limitations in emergency response in Zimbabwe, ensuring timely response to rapid onset disasters in a context of widespread ongoing slow-onset food insecurity and deepening financial crises.


  • Disaster response partners should adopt an online disaster response system that enables remote risk mapping and coordination to allow reporting of disasters online, action planning and resource tracking in times of disasters in order to achieve more urgent response.
  • Government, through the Civil Protection Committees, should enforce constant drainage system clearances throughout the year by Local Authorities in both main cities and other smaller towns throughout the country to avoid cases of flash flooding especially in high-density residential areas.
  • The Government, through the Civil Protection Committee, should prioritise continuous review of disaster risk reduction plans at all levels.
  • Disaster response partners should provide warehousing facilities in districts for timely disaster responsiveness, while partners assist in prepositioning of stock as a disaster preparedness measure, and to keep these response mechanisms active.
  • Project implementers should ensure that more stakeholders are involved from project design stage up to implementation to ensure that communities are involved in a bottom-up approach and their areas of need are fully identified.
  • Project partners should train beneficiaries to initiate more resilient livelihood projects whenever they get money during emergencies.
  • Disaster response partners should prioritise provision of psychosocial support as an initial response to emergencies.
  • Protection of learners is very important and disaster response actors should ensure that schools have disaster strategies as well as response plans and procedures that facilitate a systematic process for child protection after a disaster.

[1] https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/zim_2021_hrp_draft.pdf

Douglas Karugonjo

Douglas Karugonjo has over 7 years of experience in quality management, conducting hazard, risk and vulnerability assessments and analysis and providing resilience-building advisory services even for politically volatile environments. He has designed natural resources systems and community humanitarian/disaster risk reduction/resilience programs with different governments including the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Food Security and the Ministry of Agriculture in Zimbabwe and the African Union and implemented appropriate crisis/emergency modification activities. He has profound expertise in applying humanitarian standards in project programming and implementation. He conducted the continental Cost of Hunger Studies in Africa for the United Nations World Food Programme as well as coordinating humanitarian response and assistance with the African Union as a Health, Nutrition & Population Associate. Douglas Karugonjo is knowledgeable in fields of Quality Management, Health, Food Security, Nutrition, Service delivery in both Private and Governmental organizations and qualitative and quantitative methodologies including data analysis. He is a motivated executive professional consistently achieving optimal utilization of developing, delivering and managing operations through process improvement, research development, program coordination and cultivation of strong business relationships.

View all posts by Douglas Karugonjo →