Cletus Mushanawani Mash Central Bureau Chief
KARANDA Mission Hospital in Mashonaland Central Province is well-known for exceptional service delivery that has attracted patients from across the country and the region over the years, but getting there can be difficult. A new bridge under construction on the Ruya River is expected to improve access to the hospital.
The hospital, which is situated in the rural Mt Darwin District, has continued growing despite a myriad of challenges saddling Zimbabwe's health delivery system.
With most hospitals struggling to provide basic healthcare to patients in their catchment areas owing to the paralysing strike by junior doctors, Karanda Mission Hospital has continued being a torch-bearer.
A visit to the mission, especially on Mondays, normally paints a picture of desperation as hundreds of patients would have endured long journeys to reach the hospital, while some will be sleeping on the floor.
Some patients are forced to navigate the crocodile-infested Ruya River, while others would have paid through the nose as some transporters are taking advantage of the hospital's popularity to rip-off desperate patients.
The transporters are charging as much as $50 for a trip of 10 kilometres.
Karanda Mission Hospital can be accessed using three roads. First is Mt Darwin-Nhoro-Karanda Road which is 62km long. Of the 62km, 49km is tarred road, while the remaining 13km is gravel.
The second alternative route is the Mt Darwin-Mudzengererere-Karanda Road which is 62km long, with 25km tarred.
The shortest route is the Mt Darwin-Nyakasikana-Masango-Karanda Road that is 44km long. Of the 44 km, 29km is tarred.
Cognisant of challenges being faced by patients in getting to the hospital from across Ruya River, the Government, through the District Development Fund (DDF), decided to construct Karanda Bridge.
Usually a bridge is named after the river where it is constructed, but because of the significance of Karanda Mission Hospital, the soon to be completed bridge was named after the hospital, some of whose patients come from as far as Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.
The 160 metre-long bridge is now 95 percent complete and is expected to be commissioned by Christmas Day.
It is one of Zimbabwe's hotspot projects because of its importance to the local community and country at large.
Karanda Bridge is also one of the country's 100-day project cycle success stories as work started in October last year and in a year's time the $5,1 million bridge is set to ease transport woes for patients travelling to Karanda Mission Hospital.
Funding for the construction of the bridge is being provided by Zinara and it is a 10-span bridge of 16m each, making it the longest bridge ever constructed by DDF within Mashonaland Central Province.
It is the second longest bridge that DDF has done in the country after the 200m long Ruzawe Bridge which links Mashonaland East and Manicaland as well as three districts -- Marondera, Wedza and Makoni .
DDF's Mashonaland Central provincial coordinator, Mr Keni Clement Mutombo, said: "The bridge was supposed to be constructed in the 1950s when Karanda Hospital was established. Due to high construction costs, the Government has over the years failed to set aside the requisite money to construct the bridge."
Besides reducing the distance to the hospital, the bridge construction has created jobs for local communities.
"The construction team is made up of eight DDF skilled staff and 39 general hands who are from the local community.
"Besides creating employment, the community will benefit from its construction as it is a permanent structure that will link them with Karanda Hospital without any hassles.
"It will also provide easy access to and from Mt Darwin with farm produce as well as facilitating transportation of cotton from Karanda to Mt Darwin Depot," said Mr Mutombo.
Minister of State for Presidential Affairs responsible for Monitoring and Implementation of Government Programmes Joram Gumbo, who toured the bridge on Wednesday to assess progress, was impressed by the local engineers and builders' craftsmanship.
"All projects being implemented should improve people's way of living. We want to see a change, especially for people living in rural areas.
"This can only be achieved if we commit ourselves to the full implementation of projects like what has been exhibited here at Karanda Bridge.
"I have come to see what is being done on the ground so that I will make a proper and clear report to my principal, President Mnangagwa, on the excellent work being done here," said Minister Gumbo.
Member of the National Assembly for Mt Darwin East, Cde Norman Marikisi summed it up saying: "The completion of Karanda Bridge will help address a plethora of challenges saddling our constituencies. We recently lost three members of the same family who were swept away by the flooded Ruya River while trying to cross it.
"It will also help address the transport nightmares being endured by the public. The completion of this bridge is also a clear demonstration that if put our shoulders on the works, we will complete national projects in record times. We should all work together for the betterment of Zimbabwe."