Covid-19 exposes Mat North health system shortfalls

By Judith Sibanda

AUSTIN Ntini (28) from Jambezi on the outskirts of Hwange is suffering from a condition that is blocking his toilet bowls from emptying. 

His mysterious condition, according to his mother Bokani Sibanda from Lumbora village under Chief Shana began sometime in November last year, and his health has been deteriorating due to lack of medical assistance. 

Lumbora village does not have any nearby clinic and for serious conditions as Ntini’s they rely on health facilities in Victoria Falls or Hwange.

“He goes for even two weeks without emptying his bowel as that has led to him developing skin problems, loss of weight and failure to consume soluble foods,” his mother told CITE. 

“I tried to take him to the hospital in Hwange but the nurse on duty recommended that we need to consult a specialist in Bulawayo or Harare for them to diagnose what could be the problem,” but due to financial difficulties, the family has not been able to do so. 

“He used to work as a garden boy in Hwange, but got laid off when Covid-19 stroke so for him to get even US$10 to travel to Bulawayo is hard because we do not have the money.” 

“He only drinks tea or water to get by each day until his bowels open up even after a week and my fear is what could become of him if he was to be blocked for a month or even more.” 

Ntini’s situation is among many household challenges that Matabeleland North Province is facing. 

According to a recent research by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) 2021 Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report, Matabeleland North has the highest number of households with people living with chronic illnesses in the country yet it is also the province with the least medical institutions.

“Access to health is a big challenge for us compared to other provinces in the country,” the province’s medical director Munekayi Padingani lamented. 

“Our people are supposed to travel long distances to seek health care and we are concerned.” 

To counter the challenge faced by Ntini and many others, Munekayi is proposing the establishment of an outreach program to all the province’s seven districts. 

“To overcome that and achieve our goal, we will be doing outreach projects as well as innovations from each district. 

“We will be going out for the outreach program where we intend to take health care to the people, and those who have chronic illness like the one you’ve just given reference to, we will assign the doctors to examine them further from their clinics or hospital and if it is beyond the doctor’s expertise, we intend to have specialists coming to the rescue.”

He said such plans have, however, been hampered by Covid-19. 

“Because of Covid-19 now, we need to strategize and make sure that we adhere to the Covid-19 regulations as well as looking for funding.”

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