Zimbabwe: Village Health Workers in COVID-19 Fight

Zimbabweans residing in urban areas are privileged to have information on their fingertips.

In cities and towns, there are many ways people get latest information on various issues most importantly on the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country's rural areas bear a different story. Most villagers do not own television sets and radios.

Even with a sizable number owning mobile phones, there is relatively poor access to information as what they usually get is fake unverified information through platforms like WhatsApp. With Covid -19 cases now being reported in all the country's 10 provinces villagers in rural areas are thirsty for more information on how to protect themselves.

To plug the information gap, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) embarked on a campaign to stop Covid-19 from spreading in rural areas.

The health ministry taught and deployed village health workers (ana mbuya nana sekuru hwutano) to go around villages. Here, they teach people on how to exercise precautionary measures against Covid-19.

These include good cough etiquette, good hand hygiene and social distancing.

Speaking this writer in Murombedzi area of Zvimba, Walter Gweshe (54) a village health worker said they were taught all the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the novel virus.

"On March 20, this year, nurses called village health workers and we gathered at Chirau hall in Zvimba. We had a session on precautionary measures against the spread of coronavirus after the state of the nation address by His Excellency President Mnangagwa.

"We attended that urgent meeting because the virus had already been declared a national disaster. There was need to educate all villagers on how to protect themselves from the virus," said Gweshe.

In Murombedzi, the village health workers move from household to household, checking for any person who presents symptoms of Covid-19.

They also disseminate current information about Covid-19 they obtain from the MOHCC.

Since the outbreak of the disease in Zimbabwe, villagers in Murombedzi and other parts of the country were encouraged to wash hands frequently with soap and running water to kill the virus.

Scientists discovered that the virus can only enter into a person through the eyes, nose and mouth. For this reason, people are discouraged from touching their faces before washing or sanitizing their hands.

Most of the senior citizens in rural areas are now aware of how the virus infects people thanks to the work being done by the village health workers.

Evelyn Ndewere (62) a resident of Gweshe village confirmed this development.

"I now know how to protect myself against coronavirus. We are not allowed to greet people using hand-shake. We should cover our mouths when coughing. We also now know all the symptoms of Covid-19 such as sore throat, headache and fever to mention a few," said Ndewere.

The village heads' homesteads work as centres where information is disseminated to people when need arises.

The village health workers work hand in glove with the village heads in solving health issues.

Nyandoro village head, Steven Kanzou (60), said their main aim is to monitor that villagers are accessing information.

"We are giving out information on precautionary measures against Covid-19. We want all villagers to exercise them during this time of trouble.

"Everyone is welcome. They come to my house to get information on health issues and for solving issues related to their welfare," said Sabhuku Kanzou.

Some people have been complaining that the lockdown has been too long since most survive from hand to mouth.

But, village health workers are moving around explaining why the government declared a 21-day lockdown and extended it. Village heads are helping, too.

"We are enforcing what our President declared as precautionary measures against Covid-19. People must stay at home till all the lockdown measures are lifted. I am ready to punish anyone from my village who breaks the President's decree," Sabhuku Kanzou added.

Villagers have been following the regulations of the lockdown.

There have been no gatherings, people are maintaining social distance of more than one metre and washing of hands with soap regularly.

"All shops are closed except few selling groceries. People are still consuming what they have in stock but if they run out, I will write a letter they can use as a pass so they can go buy groceries at Murombedzi growth point," he added.

People in rural areas have been behaving in a manner consistent with what is being required of them this lockdown.

Clement Chirume (65) a village health worker said they went through a lot to clear the air since people had already believed the lies that were posted on social media.

"At first, Covid-19 was said to infect a person through the skin which is not true.

"This information was circulating on WhatsApp. This information made people paranoid with fear but, we managed to clear the air."

"We went around communities educating them about Covid-19. People are now knowledgeable," said Chirume.

When President Mnangagwa announced a lockdown, there was a mass exodus of urbanites headed to their rural areas.

There were fears that the rural folk will be oblivious of the facts surrounding Covid-19 but it appears they were already well equipped with the relevant information.

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