Cyclone Idai death toll may exclude undocumented people
The high number of undocumented people in the Manicaland province in Zimbabwe has heightened fears that the death toll from Cyclone Idai could be much higher and many victims may never be accounted for.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission said the area had the highest number of undocumented citizens - those with no birth certificates, identity cards or passports.
Joshua Sacco, the MP for Chimanimani, told the Sunday Times he was working with traditional leaders to get an accurate count.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Manicaland this week. He urged chiefs and village heads in the province "to do head counts" to help authorities with a tally of people affected.
Amnesty International Zimbabwe researcher Lloyd Kuveya estimated the country had 3.4-million undocumented people.
Rights commission chair Elasto Mugwadi said because Manicaland was on the border with Mozambique, people moved easily between the two countries, making many "stateless".
The Women's Institute for Leadership Development is doing a survey of undocumented people. Executive director Samukeliso Khumalo said some people in remote areas found it expensive to travel to aregistrar-general's office to acquire documentation.
"The process to obtain a birth certificate, for instance, is cumbersome. People are expected to join the queues as early as 4am or 5am and in most cases the process is so slow and frustrating, ending in some people giving up," she said.
The rights commission said it had received many complaints about the difficulty in obtaining national documents. Bureaucracy, congestion and stringent requirements at the registrar's offices were factors that discouraged people, it said.
Farai Maguwu, the executive director of the Centre of Natural Resources Governance in Mutare, the capital of Manicaland, said it was likely that among the missing were "hundreds upon hundreds" of small-scale gold miners in the Chimanimani district.
"The majority do not carry any identification on them, even if they have them. It will be very difficult to trace them. Their families do not even know the exact locations they were working in," said Maguwu.
Government figures have put the death toll at 139, a conservative figure. Maguwu estimated the toll to be more than 400 people from Chimanimani, the worst-hit area.