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While the Zambabue government confirms the first COVID-19 victim in the country, many Zimbabweans have questioned Zimbabwe's ability to handle a public health pandemic of this magnitude.
The nation's fragile health care system combined with its low rate of internet access has citizens on high alert – and distressed.
Zororo Makamba, 30, succumbed to coronavirus complications on the morning of Monday, March 23, 2020 at Harare Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital, where he was admitted after showing symptoms.
Makamba was well known for his explanatory video series “State of the Nation with Zororo”. He was the son of prominent businessman James Makamba.
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obediah Moyo has confirmed the death of Zororo Makamba, who was the second person to test positive for Covid-19 in Zimbabwe.@GNyambabvu @EMupoperi @JoshMunthali @nickmangwana @MoHCCZim @lizmaggz @ samaita44 pic.twitter.com/XIqHLiezR2
– ZBC News Online (@ZBCNewsonline) March 23, 2020
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. Obediah Moyo, has confirmed the death of Zororo Makamba, the second person to test positive for COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.
Mutumwa wrote on Twitter: “Let's stop and reflect”:
Mr Zororo Makamba, the son of Mr James Makamba has passed on. MHSRIEP. I have just learned from this tragic loss of life due to the virus. A giant with so much potential you have failed. Corona is real. Let us pause and reflect. Life is too precious.
– Mutumwa (@mmawere) March 23, 2020
Mr. Zororo Makamba, son of Mr. James Makamba, has died. May his soul rest in peace. I just found out about this tragic loss of life from the virus. A giant with a lot of potential has fallen. Corona is real. Let us stop and reflect. Life is too precious.
Zororo is the second case of coronavirus reported by the Minister of Health and Child Care, Obadiah Moyo, in the last week of March.
Moyo announced the first confirmed case of a British resident in Victoria Falls. The 38-year-old man had traveled to Manchester, England, on March 7 and returned to Zimbabwe on March 15 via South Africa.
Upon arrival, the patient went into self-quarantine on Moyo's advice, according to The Chronicle. However, after developing “severe respiratory distress” he was admitted to Wilkins Hospital, where he tested positive for the virus.
With two confirmed cases through March 26, according to the WHO, Zimbabweans have no choice but to prepare for a possible disaster.
Can Zimbabwe handle the coronavirus?
On Wednesday the 25th, Zimbabwean doctors and nurses went on strike to protest the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to treat patients infected with the virus.
Even before the coronavirus crisis hit Zimbabwe, their health care system was crashing, and families were expected to provide their own gloves and clean water for basic treatment at health care facilities, according to Time magazine. .
Doctors and nurses returned to work in January after a four-month strike to demand higher wages and better working conditions, according to Time.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on March 18 that gatherings of more than 100 people were prohibited in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. On Tuesday the 24th, Mnaangagwa also ordered the closure of schools and universities.
Em Twiter, user Rashida Abbas Ferrrand asked why there was no “more realistic speech” on COVID-19:
Why are we not having a realistic discourse about # COVID19 in Africa- the first fatality in Zimbabwe died gasping for air, doctors on strike as no protective gear, no water in hospitals. People who stay at home have no income and no food
– Rashida Abbas Ferrand (@rashida_abbferr) March 25, 2020
Why don't we have a realistic speech on COVID-19 in Africa? The first victim in Zimbabwe died gasping, with doctors on strike for not having protective equipment, without water in hospitals. People who are at home have neither income nor food.
Thobekile Matimb, a human rights defender in Zimbabwe, wrote on Facebook on March 23 about her concerns about Zimbabwe's lack of preparedness:
I am concerned about the state of unpreparedness that our country is in. A friend of mine battling to save lives in UK while at risk said the Covid Beast is real. I see my fellow citizens in denial that this can happen to us. No one is immune. The cities and towns are buzzing with life. Business as usual. What signs do we need? People are dying. Are we seriously waiting to be told to stay at home.
I am concerned about the lack of preparation of our country. A friend of mine who is fighting to save lives in the UK while at risk said the COVID Beast is real. I see that my compatriots deny that this can happen to us. No one is immune. Cities and towns are full of people. Business remains the same. What signs do we need? There are people dying. Are we seriously waiting for them to tell us to stay home?
On March 26, Matimbe also raised concerns about the exchange of basic public health information related to COVID-19, about the systematic lack of internet access and the high price of data in Zimbabwe:
Access to information is a fundamental right. This means internet access is most critical as we stay home. I wonder how our communities are faring with all the news on Covid-19. What are the strategies our governments have put in place for this? How can we all access the internet? Sadly, in the remote parts of our country, some are clueless of this pandemic. Digital access is a fundamental component of the right to information. A friend of mine keeps highlighting that she can't open some of these informative videos in circulation and she is right. The price of data at this point must promote access to information.
Access to information is a fundamental right. That means that internet access is more critical when we stay at home. I wonder how our communities are doing with all the news from COVID-19. What strategies has the Government put in place for this? How can we all access the internet? Unfortunately, in the most remote parts of the country, some have no idea of this pandemic. Digital access is a fundamental component of the right to information. A friend continues to emphasize that she cannot open some informative videos that are circulating, and she is right. The price of data at this time should promote access to information.
The NGO Human Rights Forum in Zimbabwe, together with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Physicians Association (ZADHR) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Defenders (ZLHR) made a statement imploring a concerted national effort led by the Government to strengthen the health care and surveillance system by focusing on key issues.
These range from early detection and mitigation, training of health personnel, decentralization and training of health workers, and access to information, among other mitigation measures.
The statement states:
As civil society, we commit to assist and work with government in fighting COVID 19, and we implore everyone in Zimbabwe to be compliant with directives from the health and national authorities in the interest of our health and the collective interests of our nation. As much as possible, we must drive prevention while preparing for the worst.
As civil society, we are committed to helping and working with the Government in the fight against COVID-19, and we implore all Zimbabweans to obey the directives of the national and health authorities, in the interest of our health and the collective interests of our nation. As much as possible, we must drive prevention as we prepare for the worst.