By Joyce Mukucha
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) is bemoaning the challenges being faced by residents in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in high-density suburbs and other localities across the city.
In an interview with Spiked Online Media, CHRA Programmes Manager, Reuben Akili said most of the challenges residents were encountering during these trying times were related to negligence and unbridled corruption by health authorities in as much as delivering health services is concerned, with chronic patients being the worst hit.
He indicated that this group of people was failing to access adequate health services with some of them even losing their lives.
“The greatest challenge we have faced as citizens during these trying times of Covid-19 include neglect of other health services mainly to those people who are chronically ill. People who are diabetic, those on anti-retroviral therapy among others haven’t been getting much attention to the extent that we have witnessed even deaths that are not Covid-19 related. In this challenging period, these people have not been accessing quality health care services in Harare,” he said.
Corruption by health personnel, he said, has become rife at local clinics, causing a serious challenge amongst patients especially pregnant women as midwives and health workers are failing to attend to them.
“We are still hearing reports of women failing to access maternal health. For instance, in Glenview, we received a case where a lady paid for maternal fees from day one but she has never been serviced at that clinic. She was told reasons like, there is no water at the clinic and her dates to be attended to postponed until she gave birth at another private clinic despite that she had paid to receive maternal health services.”
He pointed out that CHRA was also receiving reports and complaints that in some clinics, health personnel were demanding payment in United States dollar currency yet there is no law which states that health services should be accessed by paying US dollars.
“Residents are complaining that if they don’t have US dollars, sometimes they are not being attended to. We don’t know what they do with the money but we have been receiving wide reports of such issues across the city and even in martenal health demanding foreign currency.
“In as much as we have the Zimbabwean dollars, the health personnel have not been welcoming RTGS or bond notes which is sad indeed.”
He indicated that CHRA has been closely working with the Women and Law in Southern Africa and will continue taking action and making concerted efforts to ensure that Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights are respected and making sure that emergency maternal services are provided in clinics.
On the other hand, from CHRA’s monitoring, Akili admitted that there has been an improvement with about 33 clinics operating. However, sometimes people were still being turned away without getting the services they need.
Apart from health problems, Akili also highlighted other challenges that he said require urgent government intervention to ensure the safety and well-being of residents, especially during these unprecedented times.
These include and are not limited to poor transport logistics, housing allocation, access to water and electricity among others.
“Again, we have seen the rise of cases in Covid-19 due to the lack of proper regulations. Commuters are travelling to town overcrowded and packed in commuter omnibuses and small cars.
“This can be a serious problem in as much as spreading the virus is concerned. Thus we call upon the government to intervene and enforce strict laws as well as strong monitoring to curb this. It is also important to frequently spray and disinfect ZUPCO buses if it’s possible after every trip to make sure that passengers are safe.”
He said there was a need for concrete plans by the government to ensure that there is adequate transportation and urged for a reduction of the number of people being ferried by ZUPCO buses and omnibuses.
The Zimbabwean economy is largely informal hence another challenge is the increase in the numbers of people depending on vending and selling goods on the streets. Due to enforced lockdown measures, these people are now failing to make ends meet.
“This has affected mostly those in the informal sector as they are struggling to survive and bring food on their tables.”
He added that “As you are aware that we are in this rainy season, drainage systems in some places are very poor. Those who have been allocated stands on wetlands in such areas as Budiriro are facing serious problems of flooding due to heavy rains.
“As CHRA, we anticipate that even in areas such as Lafarge Cement those people who were allocated stands on wetland by local authorities and will face similar problems. There is a high likelihood of serious disaster in those areas that are prone to flooding. Measures should be put in place to deal with this.”
He bemoaned failure by the council to attend to sewer blockages in Mabvuku and Chizhanje Street which he said had caused flooding toilets to become unusable with people now in the habit of open defecation in the nearby maize fields.
Government and authorities, he stressed, ought to take urgent action to address this and ensure that hygiene and sanitation remain a priority for citizens.
Considering that physical gatherings have been barred as a way of trying to contain the spread of the virus, Akili pointed out that CHRA was making a concerted effort to build online platforms that enable residents to engage and have developmental discussions as well as continue to file their complaints during Covid-19 lockdown.
“Banning of physical events has seriously impacted some of our work because sometimes we require physical interaction with residents. Trying to address this, as an organisation, we have been embracing technology and trying to be innovative especially during these difficult times of Covid-19. We have initiated the use of virtual engagements with Civil Society Organisations, key community members, service providers such as ZETDC.
“This has been very helpful for instance the ZETDC WhatsApp group with power cuts problems being attended to via the platform.”
The use of digital space, he said, has been very significant as it is enabling residents to interact, communicate recommendations, and also allowing CHRA to attend to residents’ queries.
“We intend to scale up social media interactions especially on our ward structures but again working with other structures for the local authorities which are like Ward Developmental Committees, we also intend to use social media platforms for development discussions in high-density suburbs and other localities across the city.”