By Bokani Mudimba
THE Covid-19 pandemic has left the Jabula community about 60km outside Victoria Falls town with no access to primary health care after a clinic built by an international donor was shut down a few months ago due to lack of medicines.
Sizani Moyo, a Jabula community leader, said villagers built Batoka Clinic last year, with the help of a United States-based organisation, It Starts with Soccer.
Hundreds of people from six villages, who were set to benefit from the clinic, have resorted to traditional herbs due to unavailability of a health facility and lack of money.
The clinic was completed and handed over to the responsible authority, Hwange Rural District Council, in August last year but was shut down early this year after the outbreak of Covid-19.
“The donor had supplied some drugs before handing it over to the council,” Moyo said.
“We were shocked when it was closed under unclear circumstances leaving people without access to proper health.
“Council says it has no money to run the clinic, which is really worrying.”
The donor had pledged to supply more medicines, but because of Covid-19 everything was stopped.
The Jabula community depends largely on tourism as the majority of villagers were either employed in various companies in the resort town or survived on village tourism selling curios and other traditional artefacts including herbs.
The closure of the tourism industry and subsequent loss of jobs has left many families with no disposable income to pay for healthcare.
“With no money to go to hospital in Victoria Falls, the only option are locally available herbs such as herbal tea, lemon grass, garlic, ginger and a variety of common tree roots, barks and leaves for common colds, flu, headache and stomach aches,” Moyo said.
Zimbabwe’s first confirmed Covid-19 case was reported in Victoria Falls in March, making the community a high-risk area. The risk was further exacerbated by lack of local health facilities.
In Jabula, the nearest health facility, Lukunguni Clinic, is about 20km away, but there is no road connecting it to the community save for a small path through the wildlife-infested animal corridor.
Some people including a village head have been attacked by wild animals while walking to the clinic.
It Starts With Soccer representative Nyika Muyambo said the organisation was affected by Covid-19 but would still want to assist the community.
Council officials, however, claimed that Batoka Clinic was closed because it was not registered.
“As for the clinic, I guess something was wrong in the first place and I hope something is being done at authority level to make sure it’s properly registered,” Hwange district medical officer Fungai Mvura said.
Experts say while herbal medicines are good for health and may help address some symptoms of Covid-19, they cannot prevent, treat or cure the coronavirus.
“Every medicine has side effects which is why drugs are prescribed by a professional. I encourage people to use remedies that are recommended and prescribed,” Mvura said.
International Traditional Healers Association president David Mhabhinyana Ngwenya pointed out that some of the herbs need proper prescriptions as they cause drastic side effects or death if wrongfully used.
Herbs commonly used vary with places and usually people burn and sniff or make solutions from tree roots, barks and leaves to drink for stomach pains, headaches, colds, flu, fever, immune boosting and to cleanse blood.
The Hwange council had employed two nurses, who were relocated after closure of the clinic.
“Efforts are being made to
reopen the clinic,” said Morden Mapani, a council official.
“We need a sustainable supply of medicines and other clinical equipment to reopen.”
l This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a hyper local news outlet covering Covid-19 in Matabeleland.