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COVID-19 is Almost Gone, But Hwange Health Sector Remains in Tatters

Hwange's health sector remains in tatters and residents fear two available hospitals could fail to cope with deadly illnesses. Image by HCC

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | OCT 4, 2022

In Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need to revamp and build existing and new health facilities. Hwange did not benefit and its health sector remains in tatters, raising fears the small mining town could fail to cope with similar pandemics in future.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — In early 2020, Vusimuzi Banda remembers watching international news awash with what newsmakers said was a deadly virus – COVID-19 – which had ravaged China. Within two months, in March, Zimbabwe recorded its first COVID-19 death.

The incident raised the alarm all over the country.

“I could not imagine how a country like Zimbabwe would cope with the casualties of that deadly disease. I had seen thousands of people in intensive and high dependency units, thousands dying in developed countries like Italy and China. In Hwange, we have two hospitals which I knew were incapacitated to handle such a disease,” says Banda.

Many Hwange residents like Banda thought the coming of the pandemic and the lockdowns would be an opportunity for the central government and local authorities to construct hospitals especially with assistance of other stakeholders like mining companies operating in the coal mining town.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not witness any infrastructural development in our local health facilities. It is clear that we are not prepared for another pandemic. At least, we should have learnt a lesson from COVID-19. PPEs are important but there was a need for fixed assets for the benefit of the community for future eventualities.”
Vusimuzi Banda, a concerned resident

In Zimbabwe, whose healthcare sector is in tatters, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need to revamp and build existing and new health facilities. But Hwange, just like many parts of the country, did not benefit from the hurried development, and might not be able to cope with future pandemics, or worse still even everyday ailments such as TB or Cancer.

Residents allege that despite receiving millions of dollars in cash and kind to fight COVID-19, the central government failed to construct a new hospital or revamp existing ones in Hwange. Residents say in the case of an outbreak like Malaria or other diseases Hwange has no capacity to assist its population.

ALSO READ: Human Rights Abuses Rife During COVID-19 Lockdowns

“This shows that, our government never learnt anything, the slow response to COVID-19 teams due to shortage of ambulances and reaction vehicles and shortage of isolation facilities was enough to make us prepare for future pandemics,” says Itayi Moyo, a former member of the local COVID-19 response team.

With stricter conditions, the Hwange Colliery Hospital mainly caters for its company’s workforce and residents who can afford the hefty consultation and medical fees. The majority of the locals go to St Patrick’s Mission Hospital where consultation fees are affordable. For complicated cases, patients are referred to St. Luke Mission Hospital in Lupane or United Bulawayo Hospitals.

Currently, Hwange Rural District Council operates without an ambulance resulting in villagers hiring private cars and some dying along the way in scotchcarts.

“We had been donated an ambulance by a local safari company, but it's now off-road due to a breakdown. We are hiring motor vehicles to ferry our sick relatives. Nothing is coming forth from both the local council and the central government,” says Abednego Shoko, a village head in Makwandara, Hwange.

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