Zimbabwe’s response to Covid-19

By Debra Mabunda

Was Zimbabwe prepared for the pandemic? Were we caught unaware? Did we rise to the challenge? What are the issues that we noticed and what can be done better? Are we over the crisis or should we prepare for more?

I will try to answer these questions as much as possible in the next articles. I think one question a week will be good so we all get to reflect on the answers. The observations raised are ones from my personal view as I try to emulate what the ordinary person on the street sees and feels about Zimbabwe’s response to Covid-19

Was Zimbabwe prepared for the pandemic? The simple answer here is NO! Zimbabwe was caught left-footed by a long shot. First, we have a health system that is in shambles where we do not have the simplest of medication like paracetamol let alone talk of antibiotics. We did not have a good working thermometer let alone talk of a ventilator. Where then does one start with the preparations for a deadly disease like Covid-19 when we are still grappling with HIV, Malaria, Neonatal deaths, Dysentery and maternal deaths………the list is endless.

The long waiting list for beds, lack of basic equipment and departments that are under staffed with underpaid and miserable personnel. The thought of going to the hospital is so depressing even when one knows what treatment to expect. In the case of Covid-19, there is currently no cure. So what were we hoping for? At least some form of confidence building, dealing with people’s emotions. Allaying anxiety and helping one to fight the disease.

Zimbabwe like most African countries looks to the west for direction. In this case, the west was not prepared either and had no clue what was happening and how to deal with this phenomenon. Countries were shut down, people encouraged and forced to stay at home. Well wonderful. Zimbabwe did the same, but they forgot they already have serious economic issues. How do you ask someone to stay at home when they have no food, no water and no support system?

Fortunately, Zimbabwe has a good way of whipping people into line. They set the police and the army on you. Not only do they chase you off the street, but they also take the little that you have managed to source for your family. They even arrest you and take you to a holding centre, where you are not able to distance. Expose you more to the virus then they make revenue out of you by charging exorbitant fines on people who have no source of income.

Failing to pay meant you got to stay longer and be more exposed to the virus. By the way at the time masks were not yet highly recommended, which meant even the police were exposed to the virus. However, by some miracle, Zimbabweans will always afford a police fine even if they have no money for food.

What aches me is the way the authorities dealt with this pandemic. To me it was like the people were now criminals, by the way with our government, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. The heavy-handedness of the government to me was a way of hiding its ignorance. However, there was no need for them to go that far.

Even the West that is always our mentor has no idea how to deal with this pandemic. UK got its prime minister to go to the hospital to build confidence in the NHS, but this did not hold water. WHO does not have any clue on whether the best option is a vaccine, masks, quarantine or just let the disease run its course. It’s a catch 22 situation.

They have let us believe that testing is treatment, then this also costs an arm and a leg. What are the tests for? Statistics! It’s not as if you tested positive you get treatment. Testing positive means trouble for people.

The person is isolated fare enough they won’t be spreading the disease. How about their source of infection, those people the person has been in contact with? Are we able to trace them? Do we have the resources, the personnel, the test kits or the food to give to those we quarantine? Questions, questions, questions! Asazi! Hameno!

Next week we look at what I think we should have done and what we could do when it comes back. Watch the space

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