Mberengwa villagers appeal for assistance to construct a clinic

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…as they travel 20km to the nearest clinic

 Perseverance Javangwe

Access to covid-19 vaccines and other health care services for Murerezi villagers, in Mberengwa the Southern part of Zimbabwe has been a challenge as they are forced to travel 20km to the nearest clinic, and oftentimes they do not get the vaccines, this has resulted in villagers appealing for assistance to construct a clinic in their community.

Throughout the lockdowns, the pandemic has laid bare weak points in Zimbabwe’s health system. This has especially been true in most communities across the country, but the fractures have been especially apparent in rural areas, where poor access to health care long predated the pandemic.

Furthermore, access to rural healthcare services is often influenced by long distances and travel times to health facilities, the availability of financial resources to travel or pay for care, and also the availability of medical drugs as well as competent health workers. The majority of the rural communities in Zimbabwe walk between 10km and 50km to access the nearest healthcare facilities. Moreover, access to healthcare for rural communities is also affected by a lack of infrastructure, such as gravel roads which are not maintained, resulting in poor road conditions, and potholes that create barriers to transport, thereby forcing villagers to walk on foot.

As for the Mberengwa community, the nearest clinic Murerezi villagers go to is at Muponjane, which is 20km from their villages, this has seen them struggling to travel the long distance to seek the covid-19 vaccines which at times are not available at the clinic. Furthermore, during the covid-19 lockdowns, pregnant women were forced to travel long distances, and some would give birth while on their way.

Speaking during a community dialogue meeting organized by Community Voices Zimbabwe, Murerezi villagers aired out the grievances that they encountered during the covid-19 lockdowns in accessing healthcare services.

“During the lockdown, I was pregnant and it was a challenge to go to the clinic. Muponjane is too far so we had to go to Matibhi, but due to pressure at that clinic, the nurses would advise that we return back to our clinic. Before covid-19 when due for labor we would sleep at the clinic but during the lockdowns, the nurses did not allow us to stay close to the clinic fearing the spread of the pandemic. Furthermore, when we went there to deliver our babies we were made to wait by the gate waiting for the covid-19 test. Oftentimes this took longer and some women would give birth by the gate waiting for those tests,” said one young woman who pleaded for anonymity.

“…it was a challenge for us women to walk long distances to the clinics at Muponjane and sometimes Matibhi. I remember there was a time when we spent the whole month traveling to Muponjane for the vaccines only to be advised that there were no vaccines and that we should keep checking. We were lucky enough that some nurses came here in the village and assisted us, so we received the vaccines here,” said Moyo.

“…we do not have a clinic in our village, the nearest clinic that we go to is at Muponjane, which is 20km from here. Sometimes we go that far to look for medication but, we will not find it. This is a challenge, especially for elderly people like us. If possible we plead with the government to assist us so that we can also have a clinic that is close. We have already cleared a place where we want the clinic to be sighted and it has been approved by the council. Now we appeal for assistance in building the clinic,” said Magumbo.

The village Head identified as Shumba said during the covid-19 lockdowns they faced numerous challenges including having to find traditional remedies such as zumbani, and lemons to cure the virus. However, he said the greatest challenge has been accessing health care since Muponjane clinic is far away. Furthermore, he said the nurses were no longer treating other diseases as they were now afraid that they might get the virus from the villagers.

“When we first heard about covid-19 in this area, we did not believe it, but later on due to some circumstances, we accepted it was really there.  Then, headmen, we were instructed to advise villagers to go for the vaccines, and we would lead them to Muponjane. But the nurses dismissed us without providing the vaccines. This happened for quite a number of days, they were saying they did not have the vaccines.  So we had to go to Matibhi which is where some of us received the vaccines. Another challenge that we faced is that the nurses themselves were afraid of the covid-19, and did not want us there fearing for their lives. It was a challenge for us, it was as if we are the covid-19 virus itself. I had a lemon tree, and we were blessed in that it kept providing us with lemons non-stop. We were boiling them because we had it was helpful in terms of treating covid-19, at Matibhi they ended up selling the lemons because they were on demand as people wanted to be safe,” said Shumba.

Headman Mupako added that as parents they were clueless about how best they could assist pregnant mothers since they were denied access to maternal health care at the clinics.

“…pregnant women faced numerous challenges. They were being denied access to maternal health care at clinics. It was a challenge for us as parents of pregnant mothers because we could not find alternatives to assist them. Our traditional remedies have been destroyed long back and there was nothing we could do on our own. Covid-19 further increased the healthcare challenges in our area, clinics became fewer, and mothers were forced to deliver at homes. It was a sad experience,” he said.

There is a need to address the healthcare challenges in rural communities so that no one is left behind in achieving Sustainable Developmental Goals. Speaking during the just-ended 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there is concrete action needed to assist developing nations in achieving the SDGs.

“…because of our collective decisions sustainable development everywhere is at risk. The SDGs are issuing an SOS. Even the most fundamental goals on poverty, hunger, and education are going into reverse. More people are being denied health care and education, and human lives are getting worse from poverty and choices on sexual reproduction and health…developing countries are getting hit from all sides and we need consented action. Today I call for the launch of the SDGs stimulus led by the G20 to massively boost Sustainable development for developing countries.

“These SDG stimuli have four components, one is multilateral development banks, the World Bank…must increase funding to developing countries linked to investment in the sustainable development goals, and the bank themselves need more finance immediately and then they need to lift their borrowing conditions and increase their apatite for risk so the funds reach all countries beneath. Developing countries face too many obstacles in accessing the finance they need to invest in their people and their future.

“Second is debt relief. The service suspension initiative should be extended and enhanced. But we also need an effective mechanism, a debt relief for developing countries including middle-income countries in debt stress. Creditors should consider debt reduction mechanisms. Lending criteria should go beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and include all dimensions of vulnerability that affect developing countries…,” he said.




2 thoughts on “Mberengwa villagers appeal for assistance to construct a clinic

  • October 25, 2022 at 9:05 am

    CVZ you are doing the grt Job,,people are suffering out there in the villages ,,shade the light CVZ

    • October 26, 2022 at 1:33 pm

      Thank you so much. let’s uplift the voices of rural communities.


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