Home Health The Covid-19 pandemic and rural communities – Adding insult to injury

The Covid-19 pandemic and rural communities – Adding insult to injury

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Johannes Chin’ombe

Gweru – The recently detected Covid-19 cases in Mhondoro have been an eye opener to health providers on possible existence of the deadly virus in rural communities.

Could rural communities be hosts to the deadly virus considering the rural to urban migration that took place upon announcement of the pandemic remains a question to many.

Questions arise when one thinks of distances involved to accessing hospitals in these communities let alone information reach which is usually associated with following the tar.

“When information about Covid-19 reached us, worse with the announcement of lockdown, I decided to go to my rural home. This wasn’t for safety, but the flu like symptoms I developed made me think I had contracted the disease so in case I had succumbed, I wanted to be home.

“Through fear, I also didn’t want to know my status by undergoing tests and besides, being home would save me from stigma,” confessed one Gweru based academic, Brian Muguti (not real name).

Whether Muguti is Covid-19 positive or not, no one knows though he says he has since recovered and now contemplating communicating with his employer with whom he had cut communication with out of the fear that had gripped him.

Such are the risks associated with rural communities being hosts to the deadly virus, coupled with pressing and undisclosed issues that include ill-equipped isolation centers and distances associated with accessing these isolation centers.

Reach to isolation facilities has been a question of worry to people who reside in Chirumhanzu district.

“Our nearest and only hospital is Mvuma District Hospital and the distance we endure to access the facility is almost 15km. It’s worrying as we are living in fear in case there emerges circumstances one need access to such a facility,” revealed one Jephias Dube of Mavise Village.

The Central Estates, one of Zimbabwe’s biggest communal lands, has become home to many resettled famers with an approximate number of plus or minus 15 000 people who are exposed not only to Covid-19 but other diseases as there are no health facilities in this area.

“The only notable preparation we have seen towards the pandemic is information from hospital officials who walk with a hailer notifying people about the pandemic. We have had no further education and we largely rely on WhatsApp conspiracies whose differences leave us confused in most cases,” added one Tanaka Phiri of Msena.

A research conducted by the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) established that access to information is also jeopardising the fight against Covid-19 in rural areas.

“Most information on Covid-19 is packaged in English leaving a gap for those who prefer local languages. Robust information dissemination should target rural areas, this should include simplifying and translating information to local languages,” reads part of their research recommendations.

To date, Midlands Province received a total of 1400 test kits an approximate population of plus or minus a million people.

Industry and commerce have been allowed to resume operation after the government of Zimbabwe relaxed lockdown measure to level two though some of the demands by government like mandatory testing have proved hard to attain as one test kit costs at least USD25.

Suspected cases that have been tested form the Provinces’ remote areas of Silobela and Mvuma have been identified as migrants from urban settings and some of them from neighboring South Africa.

Midlands Acting Provincial Medical Director, Reginald Mhene recently said protective clothing and test kits are still a challenge. He however added that prevention in rural communities is being beefed up by health care worker trainings.

“We have received protective clothing from government and private institutions but it is still inadequate and we are still lobbying for more. We have received 1000 more test kits from the initial 400 that have since been finished.

“To curb the disease, we have currently begun trainings of healthcare workers in handling Covid-19 cases in Chirumhanzu and Gokwe North and we wish to spread these as swift as possible,” Dr Mhene said.

As at May 1 2020, Midlands had carried out 395 Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) and 27 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and all came out negative.

To date, Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 34 positive cases including five recoveries and four deaths. A total of 13 329 screening and diagnostic tests done. 56% of confirmed cases are male and ages mainly affected are ranging from 15-29 years.

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