Response to COVID-19 still very poor as Catholic Church escalates efforts to fight the pandemic

By Br. Alfonce Kugwa

The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe has braced herself in fighting against COVID-19 as the number of infections and deaths continue to rise in the country. The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s Health Commission has been on their toes running awareness and training courses in Catholic hospitals most of whom lie in the rural areas. The involvement of the Health commission is prompted by the lack of knowledge among many people including some frontline staff on how to deal with the pandemic.

The Commission is training personnel in the Church’s eight dioceses in Zimbabwe with St Albert’s  (Chinhoyi), Chireya (Gokwe), St Patricks (Hwange), Muonde (Gweru) and Musiso under Masvingo Masvingo Province having received the training.  

The ZCBC National Health Coordinator, Sr. Salome Mateko outlined activities being implemented which are training mission hospital staff on management of COVID-19 focusing on the eight priority areas of public health and response, procurement and distribution of PPE’s to mission hospitals, training of village health workers and Church leaders on basic information on Covid-19 and information dissemination to remote areas through information and education communication materials.

Sr. Mateko said ZCBC was working in close collaboration with other organizations in fighting the pandemic.

According to Sr. Salome, training was centred on coordination involving planning and monitoring, risk communication and community engagement.

“We are also focusing on surveillance, RRT’S and case management, points of entry, national laboratory, infection prevention and control, case management, operations support and logistics,” Sr. Mateko said.

The Commission is training personnel in the church’s eight dioceses in Zimbabwe. Communities have greatly benefited from ZCBC’s programmes in bringing knowledge and empowerment to the people.

Sr. Mateko said the response to COVID-19 is still very poor in many parts of Zimbabwe as people need to balance between COVID-19 restrictions and putting food on the table. She said the unemployment rate in the country is very high with many people working in the informal sector, hence the lock down restrictions were putting people between a rock and a hard surface.

“Although the village health workers have been working with the communities in disseminating the information on Covid -19, the response has been different depending on the target groups. The health workers have not been able to reach out to many people because of the Covid-19 regulations which limit the number of people per each gathering. Also people need food and sometimes they are forced to break the restrictions as they have to fend for their families,” she said.

She said health workers have been working with other stake holders on the prevention of Covid-19 as well as helping in contact tracing. She also said communities were exuding mixed feelings pertaining the pandemic highlighting. Sr. Salome said while lack of knowledge resulted in many people breaking COVID-19 World Health Organisation’s regulations, many people did not have the necessary facilities to prevent themselves from the pandemic such as face masks and hand washing facilities including water.

The ZCBC Health Coordinator pointed out that in some areas people continued to gather for celebrations and burials and no physical distancing is observed.

The Commission invites well wishes to support them with funds to purchase the required personal protective clothing and test kits in their fight against coronavirus in the country.

“More needs to be done until the war against coronavirus is won. We need to make sure that the message gets to everyone especially church leaders, school health masters and politicians. That is why we are stressing on training of these key people who have influence in their different constituencies,” stressed Sr. Mateko.

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