Compiled by Dr. Martin Chitsama – Project National Coordinator ZimCovid-19 Health Booths Project
On January 30, 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Up to mid-February 2021, more than 100 million people have been infected by the SARS Cov2 coronavirus and, sadly, 2,3 million have since lost their lives in different countries around the world. In Zimbabwe, the first case was recorded on March 20th, 2020. Since then, the number of Covid-19 cases now exceeds 30,000 and 1,400 lives have been lost to the pandemic.
RESPONSE TO COVID-19 BY THE UZ-ZCP-BULLION HEALTHCARE AND MOHCC CONSORTIUM
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Consortium comprising of the University of Zimbabwe, Bullion Healthcare (Pvt) Limited and the Zimbabwe College of Pathology, is working with the Ministry of Health & Child Care in implementing the ZimCovid-19 Health Booth Project.
The Project is a health information dissemination and education platform that is supporting the Government of Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 National Prevention & Preparedness Plan Pillar on Risk Communication & Community Engagement. Under the able leadership of Professor Hilda Matarira, the Project is being guided by a diverse team comprising of experts drawn from the fields of medicine, pathology, infection prevention and control, public health, education, mental health, psychology, fellowship, social welfare, and business leadership.
VISION OF THE ZIMCOVID-19 HEALTH BOOTHS PROJECT
The Vision of the Project is a Covid-19 free Zimbabwe. Additionally, the project also seeks to reduce the socio-economic, mental health, and psychological impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic among individuals, families, communities, institutions, and the business community in Zimbabwe. In the long run, the Project is anticipated to strengthen Zimbabwe’s future response to disease outbreaks and also add impetus to the country’s drive towards Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good health & Well-being) and 6 (Clean Water & Sanitation).
IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION DISSEMINATION IN COMBATING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The recommended prevention measures against the Covid-19 pandemic are presenting a departure from the usual human social cohesion norms such as handshaking and togetherness during social visits, social gatherings, school classes, church-going, travel and touring, sporting, recreational gatherings, and face to face business meetings.
Abrupt change is often difficult to embrace. However, the widespread dissemination of adequate, understandable, credible, correct, interactive health education and information on Covid-19 helps everyone to understand, accept and practice the recommended disease prevention measures (masking up, physical distancing, regular washing of hands, and staying at home).
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ZIMCOVID-19 HEALTH BOOTHS?
The Covid-19 Health Booths are situated in easy to reach, open, public spaces with high population movement. The sites for the Booths are preferably markets, schools, colleges, barracks, camps, travel hubs, and churches. Attendance at the Health Booths is voluntary and free. Clients are attended to by Booths Attendants who themselves have experience in working with local communities on health issues.
The Covid-19 Health Booths have two Zones, a Client Interception Zone where clients meet up with Booth Attendants outside the Booth and a Client Interface Zone where the clients (standing outside) communicate with an Attendant stationed inside the Booth. The standard practice is for Attendants and Clients to always observe Covid-19 prevention measures such as masking up and social distancing. The Booths are periodically disinfected as guided by the Project’s infection control experts.
The following activities happen at the Client Interception Zone:
- Clients correctly wash and sanitize their hands
- Attendants conduct temperature checks & inform clients on the meaning of temperature readings
- Clients queue 2 meters apart to take turns at the Client Interface Zone.
The following activities happen at the Client Interface Zone
- Attendants capture clients’ Knowledge, Attitudes, Perceptions & Behaviours regarding Covid-19
- Attendants ask for clients’ Covid-19 symptoms profiles (sore throat, fever, and difficulty in breathing)
- Attendants give health education, discuss and answer questions regarding Covid-19 and other common diseases (cancers, diabetes, drugs of abuse, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, cholera/typhoid)
- Clients receive pamphlets, flyers, and posters on Covid-19 & other diseases
- Clients who need further Covid-19 management are counselled and referred to Covid-19 Centres.
- Booths Attendants also advocate for Covid-19 health programs such as Vaccination.
- Testing for Covid-19 is an upcoming service at the Health Booths.
RESULTS FROM THE ZIMCOVID-19 HEALTH BOOTHS IN THE PAST 9 MONTHS
From September 2020 to February 2021, a total of 8,400 clients from among all age groups visited the Covid-19 Health Booths in Epworth and at the UZ. Thus, an average of 30 clients visits each Booth every day, going all the way from the Interception Zone to the Interface Zone. However, some clients just wash up their hands, sanitize and go and it is acceptable to do so. A total of 16,300 posters, flyers, and pamphlets on Covid-19 and other pertinent diseases were distributed since September 2020. 4,160 cloth face masks were given out to the public. There were a total of 13,700 hand wash-ups & sanitizations.
Attendants responded to various questions regarding Covid-19 including on origin of Covid-19, Covid-19 vaccine safety, cost, and availability; handling of Covid-19 related deaths and funerals; caring for confirmed Covid-19 cases in the home; the meaning of viral mutations, quarantine, and isolation; use of home remedies such as Zumbani, lemon, ginger, steaming and availability of testing and location of Covid-19 Centres in Zimbabwe.
Overall, in the environs where the Booths are situated, wearing face masks has increased tremendously, and washing up of hands is now routine practice. Over time, clients’ knowledge of Covid-19 has increased and there is a big demand for Covid-19 testing.
FUTURE PLANS FOR THE ZIMCOVID-19 HEALTH BOOTHS PROJECT
Up to the end of April 2021, a total of 650 Covid-19 Health Booths are planned to be set up in Zimbabwe’s markets schools and colleges, border towns, travel hubs, barracks, and police stations, churches, and local communities. The Booths sites will closely match the reported geography of Covid-19 cases and death numbers in Zimbabwe. By December 2021, the Project targets to interface with 4,7 million clients, distribute 7 million health education materials, motivate 9 million hand wash-ups and sanitization and conduct voluntary Covid-19 testing among 100,000 people in Zimbabwe. Apart from informing clients on their individual Covid-19 status, the Covid-19 testing exercise will contribute to the Ministry of Health & Child Care’s body of knowledge on the prevalence of Covid-19 in the country and assist in future Covid-19 intervention models.
The Project is going to run a Workplace Covid-19 Prevention & Impact Reduction Training Course on a Virtual platform. The training is meant to support schools, colleges, companies, mines, churches, and organizations in their strategies to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in their respective spaces.
Furthermore, going into the future, the Health Booths shall be also supporting Zimbabwe’s disaster and emergency preparedness through educating the public on safe behaviours in case of such hazards as floods, fire outbreaks, road traffic accidents, dog and animal bites, lightning, and thunderstorms.
A WORD OF APPRECIATION FOR YOU FROM THE PROJECT CONSORTIUM
The Project Consortium extends gratitude to the Ministry of Health & Child Care for its excellent stewardship of the Project, Nyaradzo Group for supporting the Project launch, the Bullion Group for financing the setting up of the two Booths at Epworth, and the University of Zimbabwe. The Consortium also thanks the Epworth Local Board led by Dr. Mhanda and the people of Epworth for permitting the pilot Project to be set up in their town. Special thanks go to the kind heart of the 70 years old widow Mrs. Naume Muzambwa for donating the piece of land where the ZimCovid-19 Health Booth in Epworth stands.
A CALL FOR PARTICIPATION AND SUPPORT THE ZIMCOVID-19 HEALTH BOOTHS PROJECT
The ZimCovid-19 Project Consortium is calling upon the corporate sector, developmental partners, parastatals, non-governmental organizations, institutions, churches, the business community, and individuals to come to join and support the ZimCovid-19 Health Booths Project so that together we join hands in educating Zimbabwe and the world to mask up, distance, wash up and stay at home in order to break the spread and reduce the impact of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe.