New normal could drive the future

…thinking outside the box to adapt

THE upheaval of 2020 from a virus goes down in history as the worst to impact the global village negatively.

By Catherine Murombedzi

Humanity must learn to adapt, adopt and adept to the new frontier of 2020. It is a watershed that sets a new normal. Painful as it is, life will never be the same again after 2020.

History repeats itself

In 1918, a similar virus sent the world in panic mode. More than 50 million people said a ‘premature and permanent good night’ as the Spanish Influenza wiped nations across the world. The influenza ravaged European nations for two years ending in 1920.

Fast forward to 2019, a new pandemic in the coronavirus family has sent the medical field on its knees again. Exactly a century on, alarm bells rang from Wuhan Province in the far East, China in November 2019. The novel virus is named Corona Virus Disease of 2019, COVID-19.

Unlike the human immuno virus (HIV), which has been around for nearly four decades now, the COVID-19 is a highly infectious respiratory infection which kills in a matter of days unlike HIV which can take years to be fatal. Social distancing is the major breaker in the cycle to halt the spread.

What does this entail? People have to stay at home

Thousands succumb to the virus which does not move, humans move it.

Flights were cancelled with countries closing borders. Humanity came to the fore, a death in a neighbouring community affected all and was recorded.

Companies closed with only essential services reporting for duty. Essential services became the frontline in a war zone with the silent assassin. For the medical field, the novel virus was a learning curve every day.

By nature, the medical sector is a 24/7 job, however, COVID-19 has seen some health workers living at or near hospitals to minimise risk of infecting their loved ones at home.

Finding a solution to silence COVID-19 is a race behind time. The global death rate is now set to hit a million, 897 471+ have succumbed to the virus, with infections at 27+ million, 19+ million  recoveries with rising infections everyday, stretching the health delivery system, amid a global recession from job losses.

Right now there is no cure, recoveries are on purely a cocktail of combination medicines and the fighting ability of each individual’s immunity and spirit.

A hundred years ago, the vaccine roadmap was long, taking between 10 to 15 years to develop. From the laboratory to animal trials, to human clinical trials, the medical authorities reviews, working in conjunction with the ethics committees, it was a process taking many years to develop.

The smallpox vaccine took a whopping 50 years to be developed.

Today, the COVID-19 vaccine roadmap has been slashed with the urgency it deserves through the advanced medical findings.

Many countries are working flat out on vaccines.

Zimbabwe on alert 

On March 18, His Excellency  the President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa joined the World Health Organisation’s (WHO)  clarion call to halt the further spread of the virus by declaring it an emergency. Schools were closed on March 24 with the national shutdown effective 30 March.

For five months, the nation has observed the measures.

  • Essential services were only permitted in the first level.
  • Social distancing was a new normal, people stayed at home only allowed to  leave homes to purchase food and seek medical treatment
  • People washed hands frequently, (in the five months we have washed our hands more than we have done in any year). Sanitising of objects and hands became a norm
  • Handshakes became a vehicle of transmission and became a no, no
  • Sneezing became elbow friendly as a way to mitigate the spread of the virus

Urban to rural migration 

Many people in Zimbabwe are employed in the informal sector in cities. With the closure of this field on 30 March, the majority trekked to their rural homes.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The cities became cleaner, with no bulk movement of passengers traffic congestion eased. However, local authorities have failed to take advantage of the time to renovate stadiums and roads when there is no activity.

Unplanned construction boom

The cities had become congested with residents building larger than life size houses on 300sq metres.

Wetlands too have been invaded resulting in water shortages in cities. This has led to dams being unable to provide residents with adequate clean water.

“Mukivisi River no longer flows. It has been polluted with stream bank cultivation, waste material off loaded in the river by companies, human waste by Harare City Council, the list is endless. The wetlands which feed the ground water are now all buildings, the madness has to stop,” said John Hodzeko of Marimba Park.

Prof Chris Magadza has studies showing a 50 percent decrease in water flow as a result of wetland loss. Manyame River used to flow all year round. Now it is dry during the dry season.

“When one sees water flowing at any bridge on Beatrice Rd, it is sewage from Chitungwiza. We cannot discard nature glibly and have nature provide for us. It can’t. And we drive climate change by destroying wetlands, woodlands and grasslands. We must not blame climate change when we are causing it each day,” said Mr Simba Gwaro from Chitungwiza.

Wasted opportunities 

With everyone striving to live in the city, rural development has been neglected, yet there is no shortage of land there.

A good example is an abattoir in rural Chiweshe owned by a family residing and working from home.

“I come from Chiweshe, one family has a million dollar abattoir near Nzvimbo Growth Point. The homestead surpasses homes in Borrowdale. Electrified the natural way of renewable solar energy, the abattoir has running water and is an epitome of working from your retirement settings. The abattoir employs locals who walk to and fro work. Business people with butchers bring their beasts for processing and slaughtering at a fee. This is the development we demand from our rural up bringing,” said Zecharia Farera of Kakora, Chiweshe.

Most villages in Regions 1 and 2 can carry out farming activities all year round.  

“There are a lot of activities to do in some rural areas, either market garden all year-round, goat-rearing or fruit harvesting, In Mutoko, every homestead has a thriving garden. Mbare Musika and Marondera vegetable markets are supplied by these rural gardens. As a country, we are letting these farmers down. They travel in open lorries precariously perched on their produce. Commercial farmers collected produce from their kith and kin, why can’t we do the same?

Murehwa has mangoes and guavas going to waste. Business ventures must set up factories, bring employment to the rural areas.

More mangoes can be exported. We can get mango juice besides flooding Harare with mangoes and getting little returns to Mutoko Murehwa. Most of our produce gets rotten yet we can, repack after freezing and even dry. We are our worst enemies. When the Chinese come to set up a factory in our rural areas, we cry foul,” said Mr Robson Ngora of Mt Hampden.

“Let’s develop smaller towns and villages to drive industry and push people back to their roots. People should not flock back to the cities. Agriculture and it’s value addition must happen at the village not in Harare and cities only. Marmalade jam must come from Mazowe, apple and apricot jam from the farms and villages which grow them in Troutbeck, Nyanga. This will end the crowding in apartments meant for bachelors, Matapi and Matererini in Mbare, Sakubva in Mutare,” advised Mr Farera.

Family bonding 

Families have spent more time since March 30 together than in any other years. Minors with working parents for the first time spent long periods with parents at home. In most instances, family relationships have improved with a few turning nasty and violent.

Speaking to parents and children mixed views were expressed.

One parent said she loved the new normal with a few expressing otherwise.

“I have bonded well with my teen daughter. She was turning out to be nasty before lockdown. I guess she was crying out for attention. I have got to understand her fears, her passion and her weaknesses. We prepare meals together and it’s fun. My husband found out a hidden talent. We no longer buy vegetables. We are even drying some for use when we plant maize,” said Mrs Caroline Cheta of Westgate.

The daughter said she missed her friends from school, however, she was happy the lockdown unlocklocked her family communication matrix.

“I miss my friends at school, e-learning has challenges, the teacher at times fails to understand questions. E-learning is expensive too, most of my friends are not on the platform as they do not have WiFi at home. I wish a cure for COVID-19 can be found like yesterday,” said the teen daughter Chipo.

Chipo is happy that her mother now sees her in a different light.

“My mummy used to spend so much time at work. She left all work to the maid. She had a hot temper too. Right now the maid is not around, she went to her village just a day before lockdown. My mummy and I do all the housework. We have realised that we must help aunty with house chores when she is back. I have improved my cooking and am raring to take my practical exams in Food and Nutrition, thanks to the lockdown that unlocked the master chef hidden in me,” she added.

Every household in the city now has a thriving green patch in the background.

This has led to prices falling in supermarkets.

Every shopping centre has vendors selling vegetables and an array of accessories from car boots.

Life after COVID-19 

What are the prospects and outlook of life in Zimbabwe after the pandemic?

Are people going to grow the skills and talents that roared under lockdown?

This is a great opportunity to embrace the giants that slumbered before March 30.

A new normal is here, either embrace it, or return to gloom.

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