Covid-19: Information gap could impact rural communities

By Vumani Mthiyane

Most rural communities in Matabeleland South are still in the dark on the deadly Covid-19 that has swept across the globe claiming over 18 000 lives.

In Zimbabwe, three cases have so far been confirmed while one death has been recorded.

The region is the gateway to South Africa which has 709 confirmed cases with South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa ordering a nationwide lockdown starting this Thursday at midnight as the country battles to control the spread of the pandemic.

A snap survey conducted by CITE revealed that villagers from remote rural areas such as Nhwali, Mlambapeli and Matulungundu in Gwanda South are still in the dark on the pandemic. 

The majority are unaware of the basics about the disease or steps one can take to safeguard themselves against contracting or spreading Coronavirus.

Makhevitgi Nare (79) from Nhwali village under chief Marupi said their biggest challenge was access to information. 

“Yes I have I heard a bit about Coronavirus but I don’t have adequate information or how to prevent myself from contracting the disease. People coming from Gwanda town and Manama business centre are talking about it but the information is not reaching us here,” said Nare.

A shop attendant at Nhwali business centre who identified herself as Silibaziso said she heard of this infectious disease through foreign media. 

“I always listen to Studio 7 for news briefs and breaking news. So I heard of Coronavirus in January that there is a disease killing Chinese and white people,” she said. 

Joseph Dube from Mlambapeli village said the challenge in their area is lack of information as they do not have access to both print and electronic media. 

“There is a serious problem of information gap. We depend on the grapevine, as we speak right now most people don’t even know what Coronavirus is save for the few who have a privilege of visiting Manama businesses centre where there are people with more information,” said Dube. 

Thembelani Moyo from the same village said, “Personally I don’t know much about the basics prerequisite on how to combat this deadly disease. I know we are supposed to wash our hands regularly with soapy water”

“We would prefer it if there were people that came here to teach us. Right now, we don’t know much and there are a lot of stories being told about this coronavirus but the message is not reaching us. Maybe those that have radios may know what is going on but not everyone has a radio set”. 

Gwanda District Development Coordinator, Ms Keliboni Ndou acknowledged that there is an information gap when it comes to dissemination of Coronavirus messages to the rural communities. 

“Yes, there is a challenge on reaching out to rural communities and sensitising them about there effects of Coronavirus. However, as members of the Civil Protection Unit, we have some WhatsApp platforms with traditional leadership, councillors and health technicians. 

During this time of crisis, we are certain that these leaders will teach their communities about how to prevent themselves from contracting the virus,” explained Ndou. 

Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director, Dr. Rudo Chikodzere said her ministry has been training its Districts Medical Officers and Environmental Health Technicians based in rural communities. 

“As a ministry, we are on high alert and busy sensitising rural communities about how to prevent themselves from contracting and spreading the virus. The fact is that the country does not have adequate resources, we urge people to regularly wash their hands with water and soap. This must be a culture so let us preach the gospel and spread the message to all corners of the country,” urged Dr Chikodzere.

The provincial engineer, from the Ministry of Local Housing, Sijabuliso Ncube said the information gap in rural areas might lead to more infections and spread of the virus taking into consideration that these communities are border lying areas. 

“My initial fear is that information is not being disseminated to rural areas where it is needed most.  Ignorance can lead to disaster, hence we must take action and make sure that key ministries go to the ground and teach villagers about how to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. 

We are talking of border lying areas where we can unknowingly receive a suspected Coronavirus patient and keep him/her in the village because people are not fully aware of the symptoms,” said the Eng. Ncube. 

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