First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa

A 38-eight-year-old Mutare woman battling cervical cancer looks depressed while seated on a bench outside Annex Mental Hospital at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals waiting for daybreak to start treatment.

She is not mentally-ill, but has to contend with living at the facility to beat transport and accommodation challenges affecting other cancer patients like her coming from outside Harare and do not have relatives in the capital to accommodate them.

Without relatives to accommodate her for the duration of her treatment, staying at the mental patients’ unit is the only alternative.

Others who have not been as lucky were having to sleep in the open while undergoing their treatment at Parirenyatwa Radiotherapy Centre.

Parirenyatwa spokesperson Mr Linos Dhire agreed that the hospital did not have accommodation for cancer patients coming from outside Harare.

He said the Parirenyatwa Radio Therapy Centre catered for patients from all over the country, but did not have accommodation.

Some of the patients, he said, attend radiotherapy sessions of up to 21 days and were being affected by spending long hours in the open exposed to the different weather conditions.

“As a hospital, we ended up just providing some makeshift accommodation at our Annex Mental Health Hospital where we prepared a small place for them to sleep since some of them were sleeping in the cold,” he said.

However, Mr Dhire said this was set to be a thing of the past, thanks to the country’s health ambassador, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Angel of Hope Foundation who provided a fully-equipped shelter for the patients who do not have relatives in Harare to stay for free.

The facility provided by Amai Mnangagwa was assessed by health authorities who certified it fit to accommodate cancer patients.

“We are happy that Her Excellency the First Lady Amai Mnangagwa has offered us a decent and nice facility to accommodate these desperate patients coming from outside the capital.

First Lady bails out cancer patients
Patients watch television and relax at a home provided by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Harare.

“We had a team of doctors and administrators who went to assess the facility to see how suitable it is to accommodate cancer patients. It is a very nice and suitable place to take care of patients,” said Mr Dhire.

“We want to thank Amai for her generosity in providing this kind of care. Now our patients who are coming from other towns and cities are assured of a decent accommodation.”

Under the arrangement, the hospital screens deserving patients in need of accommodation before referring them to Angel of Hope Foundation for assistance.

The shelter resembles a home set up with a living room from where patients watch television, beds and a fully-equipped kitchen.

First Lady bails out cancer patients
Angel of Hope Foundation staff preparing a meal for the patients at the home.

The hospital provides transport to and from the hospital, ensuring that patients get to the point of treatment on time.

Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, the First Lady also provides toiletries for them.

In an interview, the patients who are living in the house expressed gratitude to the First Lady for her gesture.

“I come from Mwenezi, Rutenga, and was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018 and was referred to Harare, but I had no accommodation. There were so many maternal relatives here in Harare, but when they heard I had cancer they disowned me.

“Even my siblings disowned me after hearing I had cancer. Therefore, when I came for radiotherapy I would stay outside sleeping in the cold. 

“I had last come in November and it was raining and being ravaged by the cold until we were offered a makeshift shelter at Annex. 

“We stayed there until we completed radiotherapy, took a break and went home. When I returned last week, I was then informed by the hospital that our mother Amai Mnangagwa had found us a place to stay. We are now sleeping comfortably,” she said while fighting back tears of joy.

Another patient from Bulawayo said she was thankful for the First Lady’s intervention.

First Lady bails out cancer patients
Patients in their bedroom at the home provided by the First Lady.

“I came to Harare, Parirenyatwa for treatment since I have got cancer. When I came here I did not have a place to stay, but while I was struggling about where to stay, the hospital told us good news that the First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa was willing to assist us.

“We are given free accommodation and the place is so nice and smart. We thank you so much Amai for your love and kindness. May the Lord bless you more abundantly,” she said.

Equally overjoyed was another cervical cancer patient from Zaka, who said were it not for the First Lady’s benevolence, she would not have been able to access treatment.

“I have cervical cancer which was diagnosed last year at Masvingo General Hospital. I was then transferred to Harare. Here I neither had relatives nor acquaintances. There was a tent where we used to sleep and this is where we stayed whether it was cold or raining. 

“After a while we were transferred to Annex because of the rains and we are thankful to the hospital which was trying to help us. Since we have wounds in the uterus, the pains get worse when it rains or when it’s cold. We are, however, grateful to our loving mother for offering us free accommodation and we really feel at home,” she said.

The patient said there was so much stigma around cancer that it was difficult for patients to find lodgings for the duration of their treatment.

By availing the accommodation, the First Lady has helped eliminate traveling costs and intercity traveling by the patients at a time when Covid-19 is wreaking havoc thereby exposing them.

It also helps ensure patients stick to their treatment sessions since they have no chances of missing treatment due to accommodation challenges.

This is not the first time the First Lady has come to the rescue of people in need.

Her Angel of Hope Foundation through its mobile clinic is actively involved in ensuring that men and women are screened for prostate cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer which are the major cancers affecting the country.

SOURCE: The Herald

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