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Monday 10 June 2019

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The United Nations says many people in Cyclone Idai affected areas in Zimbabwe such as Chimanimani district are still homeless, food insecure and failing to access basic health care, June 9, 2019. (C. Mavhunga for VOA)

Cyclone Idai ripped through eastern Zimbabwe three months ago after striking Mozambique and Malawi. A top U.N. official for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief said Monday Zimbabweans in the storm-hit areas are still struggling.

Ursula Mueller said the situation in the cyclone-hit areas of Zimbabwe is still "devastating and distressing." She said people are still food insecure and cannot access basic health care.

"This is particularly distressing for people living with HIV who face a double dilemma of being unable to access drugs," she said. "Even if they can access them, not be being able to absorb them on an empty stomach."

Mueller, who is visiting Harare, said the U.N. and its partners have received just 40 percent of the $294 million they appealed for to respond to the effects of Cyclone Idai.

FILE - Victims of Cyclone Idai receive food aid at Siverstream Estates in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 24 ,2019.
FILE - Victims of Cyclone Idai receive food aid at Siverstream Estates in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 24 ,2019.

That is certainly not good news for people like 79-year-old Everisto Gambire, whose home was totally destroyed by Cyclone Idai. He survived, but not his four grandchildren.

"It's still painful up to now," he said. "They had grown up and I could manage to send them to do some chores like cleaning dishes when their grandmother was not around. The loss is still troubling my mind. My son Mathew is really hurt too for his loss of children. He is suggesting of relocating. Remaining here in this place is troubling him."

El Lovemore Utseya, the councilor for Chimanimani, says he has been overwhelmed by people, like Gambire, who want to be relocated.

"They are really pleading, asking for new places to settle as it is now difficult to live in hilly areas," said Utseya. "All their fields and grazing lands were wiped out by the heavy rains and winds."

Mueller said it is "very important that there are plans and actions to resettle these people in areas that are not disaster-prone."

But with the lack of funding for the relief efforts, it might take time for people like Gambire and his family to find a new home.

Florence Mwale, host of Business Today show at Capita Radio, presses the profanity-delay button to block obscene and offensive language. (L. Masina for VOA)

Supporters of press freedom in Malawi are denouncing a government order suspending all radio and television call-in programs. Malawi's Communications Regulatory Authority issued the order on Friday, saying it is concerned that the programs could trigger more post-election violence.

Malawi's privately-owned Capital Radio station is known for broadcasting lively chat shows about politics and society but has been forced to engage with listeners via social media.

On Friday, Malawi's Communications Regulatory Authority, MACRA ordered all broadcasters to immediately and indefinitely suspend call-in shows.

Capital Radio's director Alaudin Osman says the suspension has dealt a blow to their normal programming.

Capital Radio Director Alaudin Osman (R) cross checks news bulletin content with editor Wezi Nyirongo before going on air. (L. Masina for VOA)
Capital Radio Director Alaudin Osman (R) cross checks news bulletin content with editor Wezi Nyirongo before going on air. (L. Masina for VOA)

"We are quite angry and disappointed about this," he said. "In fact, our immediate reaction was to send MACRA message that this is unfair because most of our programs on Capital Radio are talk programs, now the blanket suspension affects all us."

MACRA said some broadcasters had engaged in "careless and unethical coverage" of unrest that followed the disputed May elections, and expressed concern the chat shows could inflame further violence.

Last week, Malawi opposition supporters angry about the re-election of President Peter Mutharika clashed with police, who used tear gas to break up the protests.

Two opposition leaders launched a legal challenge against the results, claiming Mutharika's ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the election commission rigged the vote. The DPP and election commission have denied the accusation and say the election was free and fair.

Yusufu Daisa is a presenter at Radio Islam, which is pushing for exclusion from the suspension. (L. Masina for VOA)
Yusufu Daisa is a presenter at Radio Islam, which is pushing for exclusion from the suspension. (L. Masina for VOA)

Osman says suspending the chat shows suggests there is panic in the ruling party since they "don't want anybody to discuss the aftermath of the election." He said it looks like "somebody, somewhere, seems to be afraid of public opinion."

When asked by a reporter Monday by phone why the ban was needed, MACRA's Communications Manager Clara Mwafulirwa said she "will come back later" and then promptly ended the call.

Malawi press freedom group Media Institute for Southern Africa says the government's order violates freedom of expression.

The group's chairperson Tereza Ndanga said, "We are asking them to reverse that decision and we do expect that they would respond in the best interest of Malawians. We will see after what action will be taken depending on the outcome of engaging that we are having."

Broadcast managers are planning to meet with the Communications Regulatory Authority this week to discuss the matter.

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