FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday came face-to-face with knowledge gaps in rural communities in relation to Covid-19, as she wound up her week-long tour of the Midlands Province, during which she held interactive meetings with the elderly to tackle issues of domestic violence, child abuse and the deadly pandemic.
Mbuya Ennia Ncube told Amai Mnangagwa that sleeping under a mosquito net helped prevent Covid-19, a clear sign that she did not have adequate information on the pandemic and fears are that there could be many other people sharing the same view.
With confidence, Mbuya Ncube said from the information she had on Covid-19, mosquito nets were one of the effective measures to prevent the pandemic.
She was unhappy with people using mosquito nets for fishing, yet they could be used to prevent mosquitoes from transmitting coronavirus from one person to the other.
The First Lady, who is the country’s health ambassador with a passion for the welfare of the elderly and other vulnerable groups in society, quickly corrected her and concluded that more still needed to be done to get information on the disease to everyone.
So far, the First Lady has visited Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Midlands provinces with her teams from Angel of Hope Foundation to allow everyone countrywide access to information on the pandemic.
The programme is being taken to all the country’s provinces.
According to Ministry of Health and Child Care statistics, Zimbabwe has lost four people to Covid-19 as the number of those affected keeps rising. During the meetings, the First Lady is also distributing foodstuffs, blankets, home-made face masks and sanitisers to the elderly.
Through her Angel of Hope foundation, she is also donating personal protective equipment, sanitisers, knapsack sprayers and disinfect to rural clinics among other things.
The First Lady’s programmes are non-partisan and benefit every citizen.
Her intervention in rural areas comes at a time when the country is under lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has killed thousands of people across the globe.
In her meetings here yesterday, the First Lady sought to know what the communities understood about Covid-19 before sharing with them valuable information on how to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
She was charmed to notice that her audience had notebooks for reference and to share with others who did not attend.
The First Lady, who showed her other side as an excellent communicator, explained in detail the reasons behind the quarantining of returning residents and urged communities not to view the measure as punishment.
“The President invited citizens to come back home and they are being quarantined to preserve life. The current lockdown is necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It’s not a punishment and we should follow the lockdown rules.
“No treatment has been found as yet and we do not know when the cure will be found. We want to have an interactive discussion and I want everyone to participate. We should all leave this session with correct information on the pandemic,” she said.
The First Lady implored those who would have spent time with her to be good ambassadors who share information on the disease with others to save life.
One villager expressed dismay that some churches viewed the lockdown as a way of stopping them from worshipping, adding that anyone could pray even alone in their homes, until after the end of the pandemic.
Sekuru Davison Musvobi said at funerals, health authorities had to play a leading role in ensuring that the disease did not spread, adding that people in rural areas were still gathering in large numbers at funerals.
The First Lady sought to know if couples were not troubling each other during the lockdown, resulting a spike in domestic violence cases.
She also spoke strongly against women who spend long times “gossiping” at boreholes without observing social distance, saying this could increase the rate of infection and cost many precious lives.
However, the First Lady said people should not discriminate against those who test positive for Covid-19 as stigmatisation did not carry the nation forward.
In no-holds-barred discussions, villagers openly admitted that domestic violence remained a big challenge in the communities, though most of the cases went unreported.
“When beaten by my husband at times I do not report for fear of getting him arrested. We grew up knowing that it’s improper to get your husband arrested as this will result in loneliness,” said one of the attendees.
The First Lady said newspapers were awash with reports of old men who rape their grandchildren and urged people to always report such cases to the police to nip the practices in the bud.
Dr Gabriel Ndagurwa, the District Medical Officer for Mberengwa, said they had intensified their surveillance systems to prevent villagers from getting into contact with people of unknown health status and those from affected areas.
“Most rural communities were already burdened with underlying conditions. According to the general population distribution, we have most of the elderly living in rural areas, so much of our population here in the district is at risk of getting Covid-19.
“If you look at international statistics, they show that old age is associated with the high risk of getting the disease and the outcome is generally poor, especially if associated with other conditions which are usually there in the elderly like diabetes and other chronic illnesses like asthma and heart diseases as well.
“Our elderly population is at risk, but we are on the lookout for any risk factors like those who come from outside the country. We have some border jumpers coming into the district and we are using our surveillance systems to get information on those who come through undesignated areas.
“We are watching closely to avoid contacts with people who have unknown status and those we are getting from outside the country, we are directing them to the provincial quarantine facility in Gweru,” said Dr Ndagurwa.
From Mberengwa, the First Lady proceeded to Zvishavane-Runde Constituency for more interactive sessions with the elderly, while her teams from Angel of Hope were dotted around Mberengwa North, Mberengwa East and Zvishavane-Ngezi where they spent time with the elderly.
The First Lady’s meetings have earned her praises since she is visiting areas that most people shun owing to their proximity to cities and bad roads.
Her down to earth and accessibility have helped people speak out on issues that concern them, while ensuring their health needs are covered.