THE Year 2020 has not been an easy one for the global health sector at the back of a global health pandemic, the COVID-19. In Zimbabwe, even though the virus has not been as severe as other countries in the developed world, some lives were lost while a sizable number also got infected.
To worsen Zimbabwe’s health crisis in the midst of COVID-19, a nationwide healthcare industrial action also ensued which saw numerous negative public health outcomes being recorded. In the midst of all this misery and loss, a number of individuals and organizations set themselves apart and dedicated their time and resources to improving access to healthcare services throughout the year 2020.
Below is a list of 15 Zimbabwean individuals who went all out to ensure access to health care services, health information and care during the course of the year. Please note that the Health Champions for the year 2020 have not been grouped in any particular order.
Outstanding Medical Breakthrough
Dr Johaness Mukwembi
Dr Mukwembi is a lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Midlands State University. In May 2020 at a time Zimbabwe was receiving increased volumes of returnees from neighboring countries into quarantine centers, Dr Mukwembi became the first if not the last Zimbabwean Doctor together with his team to successfully perform a cesarean section on a COVID-19 positive pregnant woman
Outstanding Health Communication Medical Practitioners
Dr Grant Murewanhema
Dr Grant is an epidemiologist and public health expert. Owing to massive information gaps and panic that was brought about by both mainstream and social media, a lot of fake news was circulated regarding the COVID-19 pandemic leading to creation of various conspiracy theories. To nip infodemia and fake news in the bud, Dr Grant dedicated his time to consistently producing and writing scientific backed and well researched op-eds articles on COVID-19 management, prevention and control. Ever since COVID-19 was recorded in Zimbabwe, Dr Grant has written at least 20 articles on COVID-19 one of them being in vernacular (Shona). The articles were published in HealthTimes, Zimbabwe’s leading health news publication. He would also dedicate his daily time posting daily the ministry of Health produced COVID-19 sitreps on the Coronavirus COVID-19 Zimbabwe Facebook page which has 95 000 members. He has also been starting interactive debates and conversations around COVID-19 through his microblogging account (Twitter). Dr Grant also became a regular and trusted news source and also appeared on virtual news organisations such as Open Parly commenting on COVID-19 issues during a live virtual broadcast.
Professor Solwayo Ngwenya
Some called him Prophet of Doom at the begining of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe owing to his unshakable, candid and blunt approach to COVID-19. “If we relax, we perish,” that’s more like his mantra. Professor Solwayo Ngwenya is the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo. Prof Ngwenya has been instrumental and consistent in spreading the message of COVID-19 as well as advocating for better health care in public hospitals. He has also been on the forefront of cautioning people on dangers of not adhering to COVID-19 regulations. As a Gynecologists, he has also sourced some funding to start a specialized clinic at Mpilo for Preterm babies and is working on a preeclampsia project with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) to help women at risk of suffering from the condition.
Outstanding Handson Community Health Initiative/s
Luckmore is a Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocate. He is also a professionally trained HIV Counsellor, Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (Africaid Zvandiri). He is the Deputy National Facilitator-Northern Region (YPNSRHHA), National representative of YPLHIV (NYPNSRHHA). At the height of the lockdown period in Zimbabwe, Luckmore would ride his bicycle every month delivering Antiretroviral (ARV) medications and other essential health services and products to young people living with HIV in Mt Darwin. His work has benefitted Young People in Mt Darwin District as well where he has been instrumental in community engagements establishing clubs addressing gender-based violence (GBV), menstrual health issues, teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Mrs Vongai Chimhini
Mrs Chimbhini is the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) Community Based Distributor (CBD) in Masvingo. During the lockdown period, a moment when movement was highly restricted, Mrs Chimhini’s work revolved around following up young people who are on antiretroviral Therapy (ART) delivering the essential drugs to avoid defaults, delivering condoms and other contraceptives to young people in her jurisdiction, referring young people for treatment especially those who developed STI infection during the lockdown amongst a host of other services. Majority of CBDs went to their rural homes during the lockdown period and Mrs Chimhini was left with burden of servicing the entire Masvingo urban community of her own before the ZNFPC Masvingo clinics repined after briefly closing. In most instances, she would wake up very early before the police mounted their road blocks just to drop condoms in public toilets and at service stations in Masvingo.
Beatrice is the ROOTS Africa Director. ROOTS is a humanitarian organization which offers grassroots and community-based health services and solutions in rural areas. When the lockdown was announced, majority of people stocked up food and other essential supplies in preparation for a lockdown which would last for at least six months. However, a certain group of the community faced the risk of starvation and malnutrition had it not been for Beatrice and her team who intervened and took it upon themselves to provide food hampers to the elderly people and those who look after orphaned children who might have lost their parents to AIDS. Nutrition is an essential component of health and should people especially the elderly and those living with HIV fail to get nutritious diets, this could have negative health outcomes. Roots assisted people from Harare and others from rural areas.
Outstanding Community Health Development Project/s
Fagio is a Councillor for Uzumba Ward 14 and he assumed that office in 2018 after the harmonized elections. Through his mobilization and collaboration with various communities and villages under his ward, Fagio has commenced construction of four clinics in Mayema, Mutize, Zenga and Kaseke. The Clinics are set to address various health challenges people have been experiencing as well as reduce the distance villagers used to travel to the get to the nearest health center which to some villagers in located 20 kilometers away. Construction has already started at the clinic’s sites and all the four clinics are scheduled to be completed come December 2021. Fagio has also embarked on a drive to reduce early marriages and unintended pregnancies in Uzumba through engaging traditional as well as religious leaders from the Apostolic sects in the area.
Outstanding Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Project/s
Sharon Stella Musonza
Sharon is the founder for She Awakens Movement, a young woman led organization and a campaign against Gender Based Violence (GBV) for and by Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) in Midlands province. Sharon and her team worked much of the year 2020 to raise awareness around GBV and SGBV with the AGYW as well as host dialogues and discussions on various platforms, training them to own their rights and spread the message to their peers with the intention of reducing their chance of being victims of GBV. Sharon was also awarded an SRHR activism award by SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) and has penetrated many platforms representing the AGYW and their SRHR rights.
Primrose Dick (28), works for a youth network called Zimbabwe Young Positives (ZY+) and is based in Mutare. During lockdown period, she and her team trained seven young people living with HIV to become champions and gate keepers in their various communities. Their main duty is to keep their peers in care and up to date with information. The champions also assist by referrals to those who need assistance, identify any gap and make sure the rights of young are protected and when violated make sure appropriate measures are taken for example financial situation should never be deprived of ART. Primrose also came up with a psychological WhatsApp group with young people just to keep their sense of importance alive as well as offer counseling services and encouraging them. Sharon says she loves to see young people free and above all accepted in their communities despite their HIV status. She also works with Zimbabwe national network for people living with HIV (ZNNPT) pushing for young people’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) rights.
Outstanding Community Health Advocate
Margaret (53) works with Family aids support organization (FASO) in Mutare. She was also instrumental in advocating for the reduction of user fees which were priced at USD$3 -$50 ZWL for people living with HIV by the Mutare City council. She also helped the Formation of Community Art refile groups (CARGS) to avoid congestion at health facilities and save transport money. During the lockdown period, Margaret was also encouraging members and People Living with HIV to collect their drugs during lockdown. She also assisted those who could not afford money for consultations. She is also gender champion for Women Coalition Zimbabwe (Wcoz) and was offering counseling services to survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Most Innovative Health Corporate Executive
Ms Lucy Marowa
Ms Marowa Lucy is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the National Blood Service of Zimbabwe (NBSZ). The COVID-19 presented various challenges for the healthcare service delivery system and the blood services sector which relies heavily on community gathering such as schools, blood drives among other to collect blood, blood stocks were bound to be affected heavily. Faced with the threat of blood stockouts owing a myriad of factors, the NBSZ partnered with the world’s biggest social media network Facebook to have a Facebook NBSZ feature for the purposes of mobilizing for blood donors. Zimbabwe becomes the eight country in the world where Facebook has launched this feature.
Outstanding Corporate Funder/s to Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 Crisis
Dr Strive and Tsistsi Masiyiwa
Dr Strive and his wife Tsistsi are the Co-founders of Higherlife Foundation. Through various initiatives and partners, Higherlife Foundation availed over US$5 million to combat the COVID-19 disease in Zimbabwe. To date, the foundation has purchased over 2,400 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits consisting of PVC overalls, overshoes, latex gloves, goggles, disposable surgical masks and other protective items for health workers at the country’s major COVID-19 referral hospitals. In addition, 45 full Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ventilator suites and 100,000 test kits were distributed to Zimbabwe’s public hospitals.
Customer Focused Medical Aid Executive
Mr Martin Mushambadope
Mr Martin Mushambadope
Mr Mushambadope is CIMAS Managing Director (MD), when the COVID-19 pandemic started, CIMAS became the first Medical Aid company to offer members medical aid cover for subsequent COVID-19 treatment and clearance tests at the end of their treatment. The cover, which was subject to the benefit levels provided for in the member’s medical aid package, included admission to any hospital approved for COVID-19 patients, treatment in an intensive care unit within the hospital, all prescription drugs in and out of hospital and up to three clearance tests, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
Integrated Medical Integrated Health Service Provider
Mr Kudakwashe Munyogwa
Mr Manyogwa is Wellness Medical Aid Chief Executive Officer(CEO). The organisation is domiciled in Gweru. His organisation has integrated traditional medeincine and mordern madical services and brings together various service providers on board including indigenous health practitioners from traditional medicine practitioners as well as modern medical practitioners under one roof to offer services in their areas of specialty. The rpoduct was also endorsed by the minister of health and child care, Vice President Constatino Chiwenga in Auguts 2020 who also said the “Wellness Medical Aid Society was poised to transform the medical aid and general healthcare delivery system in the country.”
Adjudicators: Ms Precious Guwira (Freelance and Health Journalist in Mutare), Mrs Thandeka Ndlovu (Health Journalist at the Zimpapers, Chronicle in Bulawayo), Mrs Partnella Ngozo (Gender Advocate and Media Practitioner Kwekwe) and Mr Michael Gwarisa, (Editor HealthTimes)