Zimbabwe’s relief efforts got a boost on Monday when the European Union (EU) offered a helicopter to support relief efforts in the eastern part of the country following the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai over a week ago.
“The helicopter, a Mi-8AMT, will be operated by the World Food Programme and started its mission in Mutare, the capital city of Manicaland province.
“It can transport up to three metric tons or 19 people and will connect responders with cut-off and hard-to-reach areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge,’’ the EU said.
According to the EU, this enables the transport of necessary relief items but also personnel and injured people for a period of approximately three weeks.
“The helicopter will be at the free disposal of about 20 humanitarian organisations, and will do about five rotations per day,’’ it added.
Media reports say the helicopter comes at a time when the government has been lamenting slow movement of relief items to the effected people due to damaged infrastructure especially roads and bridges.
The helicopter is therefore expected to speed up distribution of food and other relief items to areas ravaged by the cyclone.
The cyclone has, however, killed over 150 people and displaced thousands of others particularly in the hardest hit Chimanimani District.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, is expected to visit the affected areas later.
Olkkonen expressed hope that the helicopter would go a long way in improving the difficult relief operations underway.