By Nyaradzo Nyere
At a funeral gathering in rural Rusape in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland Province, George Ndoora a village health worker occasionally addresses mourners, reminding them of the need to wear masks and maintain social distance.
Villagers take Ndoora’s advice seriously. When he speaks, they listen and when he approaches a gathering, they make sure they are practicing all World Health Organisation recommendations for Covid-19 prevention.
“The village health worker is always there for us and educating us whenever he gets a chance at funerals or meetings,” said Margaret Gondo, a 50-year-old widow.
Ndoora has been a village health worker for over eight years, but the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed the way he carries out his duties.
“l used to do door to door visits but since the pandemic, we have stopped doing that,” he said.
“People in rural areas like here have no information regarding the pandemic, such as vaccines and where to get treatment or to be vaccinated.
“It seems as if all the information is centred around Harare, yet the disease is spreading everywhere.”
Ndoora said he and other health workers have taken it upon themselves to spread information about the pandemic and ensure that villagers are safe.
Last month, 11 rural areas in Zimbabwe were declared Covid-19 hotspots following an increase in new coronavirus infections amid indications the country is already experiencing a third wave of the pandemic.
Despite repeated assurances on the state of preparedness by the government, evidence on the ground suggests limited resources to fully curb the effects of the pandemic.
The situation is even dire in rural communities where access to information is limited and health institutions are poorly resourced.
“While the above-mentioned challenges are evident countrywide, the consequences are disproportionately felt in both rural and urban communities in Zimbabwe,” says a United Nations Development Programme report on Zimbabwe for 2020.
“The limited access to drugs and the much-needed protective personal equipment is extensive in rural areas.
“Coupled with an already less robust and ailing rural health system characterised by limited skilled personnel, medical supplies and dilapidated infrastructure, many rural areas remain ill-prepared to combat Covid-19.”
As such, villagers like Gondo, are left with no option but to rely on village health workers in order to access information, but it is not enough.
“The village health workers themselves have limited information,” she said.
“It’s our hope that the government will provide more Covid-19 information for us living in the rural areas, but for now we are grateful for the oversight role that the village health workers play.”