Zimbabwe: We Cannot Work On Empty Stomachs, Health Workers Tell Govt

3 August 2020

Health workers have vowed to proceed with their job boycott despite the recent plea by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for them to return to work.

This is amid revelations that scores of people could be dying due to lack of medical care.

In an interview with a local publication, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general, Norman Matara urged government to first pay health workers a living wage, provide adequate PPEs and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment to end the industrial action.

"The government should simply meet its end of the bargain, pay health workers a living wage, provide them with adequate personal protective equipment, and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment.

"If they do this simple task, health workers will happily return to work and do their job of saving lives. The government wants health workers to act in the nation's interest and exhibit a sense of responsibility, yet the same government is not meeting its end of responsibilities," said Matara.

"Health workers cannot work on empty stomachs and without protective clothing simply because they save lives," added Matara

Enock Dongo, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association reiterated Matara's sentiments, calling on government to address health workers' grievances for them to return to work.

"We heard what the president said, but we also want him to hear and listen to what we are saying. First, he must respect our work and we will also do our part," Dongo said.

"We want the president to look into our issues. If he acknowledges our issues which are genuine, then he must address them.

"No way can we go into such a dangerous environment without wearing protective gear in the name of national interests, that will not work.

"Right, now many nurses are being evicted from their lodgings because they failed to raise rentals, which are now US$40 to US$70, but salaries are below US$30.

"Even if they say we are not acting in the national interest, but we have families to look after," said Dongo.

Public hospitals are turning away sick people, including those with Covid-19 symptoms, leading to fears that people are dying in their homes without any treatment.

Speaking at the burial of Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri on Friday last week, Mnangagwa pleaded with senior doctors to abandon the strike in order to save lives.

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