Health

Covid-19 and Zim’s countryside

TAURAI MANGUDHLA


Driving south from Harare last weekend, the setting changes almost
abruptly about 30km outside the capital city with images of face
masks, gloves, and hand sanitisers disappearing.


One is tempted to imagine this is a different timeline altogether,
either before or after the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted the free
movement of people and business operations.


The traffic however is a constant reminder that something is wrong:
driving for as much as five minutes without seeing another vehicle on a
Saturday morning along the HarareMasvingo Highway or anyone
walking.


Save for Beatrice and Chivhu town where you see a big bottle of sanitiser
sitting on top of a drum at a police roadblock and officers were putting
on masks, it was a different story for the remainder of the journey.
Children played soccer on the streets of Gutu and several people
waited for transport along the Chivhu-Gutu highway.


Standing at Matizha shopping centre, about 30 km from Gutu,
45-year old Marry Chokuda was desperately waving for cars to stop.
“My brother, I must go and buy groceries in Gutu. I have been at
home for six weeks now and we have run out of cooking oil, sugar,
and salt. I have a few dollars in my account, but shops here only take
cash or they charge you a premium,” she said.


Narrating her ordeal, Chokuda said she had walked for more than
15km from around Serima High school a few hours earlier.
“I have been here for three hours now, my feet are swollen and I am
starting to lose hope. I can’t go home empty-handed so I have no choice,”
she said before showing a scarf which she said was her face mask.
“I am told you will be fined for not wearing a face mask and I hope
this will work,” she added.


Everyone else around her has no face mask and they are not even
observing the social distancing parameters.
All they want is to get their business done.


“We are starving here and our yields are very low this season. We
need to work and feed our families not to be locked down like prisoners
in our own country,” said one of the elderly gentlemen at the bus
terminus.


In Gutu, it was the same story as at least 50 people waited at the major
bus terminus at Mupandawana Growth point.
After buying groceries, now they wanted to either go back home or
deliver.
“My grandmother is at home in Devure. It’s not far from here and I
should have gone back to Masvingo by now, but I could find transport. I
just need to drop these groceries,” a youthful Sam Gwenzi said.
“I doubt I will make it back today, I might have to sleep here in Gutu
and proceed in the morning back to Masvingo.” Gwenzi’s sister, Patricia, says she struggled to buy medical supplies for her grandmother and it’s proving to be even more difficult delivering.


“We were arrested at a roadblock but they are human and had to let
us go when they saw all the tablets I have and the food my brother
is carrying. The tablets are clearly labelled, I bought them yesterday
and delivering them is a priority,” she added.
Gwenzi’s story is different from others who have had to pay their way
past roadblocks.
A few days earlier, a road trip to Chihota was the same.


Eight- three-year-old Mbuya Nyemba needs to see her doctor.
“I have a lot of medical problems including high blood pressure and
I have missed my monthly routine check-up twice now, sometimes I feel
terrible but I can’t do anything.
“My grandchildren brought me groceries, but I need to see a doctor,”
she added.
Bottles stores in the area were open and serving their clients as
usual, although the proprietors were careful.


At one shopping centre, lights were turned off as soon as they saw a
car approaching and everyone played dead.
Meanwhile, workers who have gone without pay since the lockdown
are struggling.
While businesses are still counting the losses caused by the Covid-19
pandemic, citizens in the rural areas of Zimbabwe are wallowing in deep
poverty and hoping government end the national lockdown which has
been running now for two months.


For a country whose citizens relied on food handouts, the lockdown has
just worsened the situation.

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