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Like Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s “pathetic” health system loses reputation

The public health system has steadily deteriorated, whereas before, people came from overseas to be treated in Zimbabwe

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Like Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's "pathetic" health system loses reputation
A visitor carries a stuffed doll for a patient at Parirenyatwa hospital in Harare September 9, 2019. - For Zimbabwe's doctors, few institutions reflect their country's decay under Robert Mugabe than the once-vaunted public hospitals, now deteriorated, under-equipt and failing. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

For Zimbabwe’s doctors, few institutions reflect their country’s decay under Robert Mugabe than their public hospitals, once vaunted but now under-equipped and crumbling.

Latex gloves serve as urine bags, operating rooms lack light bulbs and patients are often required to refuel their own ambulances, medics say.

Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at age 95, may have swept to power as a liberation hero, but his rule was marked by economic collapse that left his people scrambling to survive.  

Zimbabwean doctors note the symbolism of Mugabe seeking treatment 8,000 kilometres from home in Singapore’s gleaming Gleneagles clinic, where the cheapest suite costs around US$850 a day.

“It is very symbolic that the former president who presided over all the system for three decades can’t trust the health system,” said Edgar Munatsi, a doctor at Chitungwiza, 30 kilometres from the capital Harare. 

“It says a lot about the current state of our health system.”

Mugabe’s death has left many debating the legacy of a man who ended white minority rule and was initially lauded for advances in public health and education.

In his nearly four-decade rule, Mugabe later brutally repressed opponents and oversaw a catastrophic mismanagement of the economy that led to hyper-inflation, food shortages and misery.

Mugabe was not alone in seeking overseas care. Current Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is away for several weeks of treatment in China.

Like Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's "pathetic" health system loses reputation
A visitor carries a stuffed doll for a patient at Parirenyatwa hospital in Harare September 9, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

It is not hard to see why.

In Chitungwiza hospital, a glowing sign promising “Quality Health” welcomes patients, but conditions inside say otherwise: Operations are often cancelled for lack of anaesthetic, Munatsi says.

The hospital recently issued an internal memo warning its poorly-paid staff against “eating food made for patients.”

Two-decade crisis –

The situation is equally dramatic in paediatrics at Harare Central Hospital, one of Zimbabwe’s top clinics. Cleaning is done only twice a week, for lack of staff and detergents, doctors told reporters. 

The operations are often postponed for lack of running water and nursing staff, in a country mired for two decades in economic crisis.

“In theatre, we have linen full of blood and faeces and you can’t do the laundry,” said one doctor.

He requested anonymity, like many of his colleagues, for fear of reprisals from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Only one of three paediatric operating rooms at the central hospital is working.

“We have a four-year waiting list for inguinal hernias, the most common condition in children,” says one of the specialists.

Without treatment, this hernia can cause male infertility.

Drug shortages, obsolete equipment and lack of staff: the mix is sometimes deadly.

“It is heart-breaking when you lose patients who are not supposed to die under normal circumstances,” Munatsi said.

‘Pathetic’ –

Since the early 1990s, the public health system has steadily deteriorated, whereas before, people came from overseas to be treated in Zimbabwe, recalls one senior doctor.

That is a legacy of the Mugabe years as the country was tipped into endless economic crisis  — three-digit inflation, currency devaluations, and shortages of commodities.

Like Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's "pathetic" health system loses reputation
A patient carrying her drip walks assisted by a relative along a corridor inside Parirenyatwa hospital in Harare September 9, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

In hospitals, patients and loved ones who experience the situation daily, are resigned.

“It’s pathetic,” says Saratiel Marandani, a 49-year-old street vendor who had to buy a dressing for his mother. 

Given her age, she should receive free health care. But the reality is starkly different.

“Only the consultations are free (…) if you need paracetamol, you need to buy it yourself.”

His mother will have to do without the ultrasound she needs. At 1,000 Zimbabwean dollars or 100 euros, it’s beyond his reach.

Doctors say they sometimes have to pay out of their own pocket for patients’ medication, or even just their bus ticket home. 

At Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, Lindiwe Banda lays prostrate on her bed. A diabetic, she was given the green light to go home. But on condition she paid her bill.

“But I do not even have five Zimbabwean dollars (less than one euro) to pay for the transport,” she said in tears. 

“I can’t reach my relatives. I think they have dumped me. They don’t have money, but they should show some love”.

If hospitals and patients are penniless, doctors too cannot escape Zimbabwe’s ruin.

Like Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's "pathetic" health system loses reputation
Dr Peter Magombeyi poses as he answers to an interview, in Chitungwiza, 26km south-east of Harare, on September 8, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Medics have just begun their latest protest to demand a pay rise after salaries lost 15 times their value in a few months and consumer prices spiralled out of control.

“We are incapacitated,” says Peter Magombeyi, a doctor whose salary is the equivalent of 115 euros a month — a pittance that requires him to do odd jobs to get by.

“We are very aware” of the problems, says Prosper Chonzi, the director of health services in Harare.

“The health system reflects the economy of the country.”

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Environment

Uganda’s teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action

Leah Namugerwa has led a campaign to urge Kampala to implement a ban on plastic bags blighting the country

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Uganda's teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action
Leah Namugerwa, a 15 year-old climate activist, holds a placard next to her father Lukwago Cephas in Kampala on September 4, 2019. - Her activism includes striking around the city with a placard in order to raise awareness about climate change and the environment. She also misses out on school every Friday as a protest and has full support from her dad who is also her manager. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

When Ugandan Leah Namugerwa turned 15 last month, she decided to plant 200 trees rather than have a birthday party, in her latest effort to spotlight environmental damage in her country.

Juggling school, protests, and giving speeches in regional capitals rallying for action to save the planet, she is one of a generation of youths inspired by Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg.

“If adults are not willing to take leadership, I and fellow children will lead them. Why should I watch on as environment injustices happen before my eyes?” Namugerwa said in the Rwandan capital Kigali last week, receiving a standing ovation for her address on the climate emergency.

Back in Kampala, she told reporters she was inspired to do weekly school strikes after becoming aware of her own government’s “inaction” on environmental issues, and discovering Thunberg’s sit-ins outside Sweden’s parliament that led to a global youth movement.

Namugerwa was one of several activists with the Fridays for Future movement to receive this week Amnesty International’s highest human rights award for their work.

Uganda's teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action
Leah Namugerwa, a 15-year-old climate activist, holds a placard in Kampala on September 4, 2019. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

She has led a campaign to urge Kampala to implement a ban on plastic bags blighting the country, and sounds the alarm about massive deforestation as well as prolonged droughts and flooding attributed to climate change.

“What made me get concerned and get involved in this campaign is because of the climate change and effects on our lives, like we have experienced high temperatures as never before, we have experienced flooding… diseases are spreading.

She said young people “have to speak out.”

“If we don’t, our future is not guaranteed. The current leaders will be gone but we shall be there to suffer the consequences of their inactions.”

A real danger –

The first time she held a protest for climate action was a Friday in February this year, on her own in a Kampala suburb.

Uganda's teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action
Leah Namugerwa, a 15-year-old climate activist, holds a placard in Kampala on September 4, 2019. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

“I felt I was doing the right thing and on the right track but to most people including some of my family members it looked to them as weird. They were glancing at me, shaking their heads in disbelief as I held my placards,” she said.

Now, a group of teens join her every week in missing school to hold their strikes on Fridays.

“Some people have criticised me. They say at this age and on Fridays I should be in classroom not on streets holding strikes. Good thing my parents have supported me. They have encouraged me.”

Namugerwa — who will take part this Friday in co-ordinated worldwide climate protests — said she is heartened by rising interest in environmental issues in Uganda.

“Issues about climate change are not given the priority they deserve… but the debate is picking up now with our campaign.”

Another teen activist who has joined her strikes, Jerome Mukasa, 15, said Namugerwa had opened the eyes of young Ugandans to the environmental crises in their country.

“Before the message on climate and environment was not clear to some us but Leah has simplified it to us, that it is real and a danger to all of us.”

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Culture & Tourism

Moroccan TV show suspended for celebrity guest’s boast of “beating his wife”

No legal action has been taken against Miloudi, despite waves of outrage on social media

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TV show banned in Morocco for promoting violence against women
Courtesy: Chada TV, Morocco.

A Moroccan television show has been suspended for allowing a celebrity guest to boast on air of “beating his wife”, the country media authority said Wednesday.

“Whoever doesn’t beat his wife is not a man,” popular singer Adil El Miloudi said in June on a Chada TV show, Kotbi Tonight, drawing laughter from a fellow guest, actor Samy Naceri, and host Imad Kotbi.

“In Morocco, this is normal, anyone can do what he wants with his wife, hit her, kill her,” he insisted after  Kotbi jokingly said: “It’s forbidden to hit one’s wife all over the world.” 

Miloudi’s remarks amounted to “justification for violence against women, an express incitement to violence, presented in a positive way as a sign of virility… or even recommended behaviour”, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA) said in a statement.

In response to this “explicitly violent speech”, the host adopted a “playful tone” and allowed his guest to repeat his call for violence against women”, it added. The media authority said Kotbi Tonight was to be suspended for three weeks.

So far, no legal action has been taken against Miloudi, despite waves of outrage on social media in reaction to his comments. Misogynistic and sexist attitudes are commonplace in Morocco and rarely condemned by authorities.

Last year, HACA penalised a Chada FM radio show after a commentator said on air that “women who are the most exposed to uterine cancer are those who resort to prostitution or adultery”.

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Culture & Tourism

Ake festival 2019: A festival of arts and books

The preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival

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Ake Festival 2019 partners News Central
A panel session with speakers discussing at the Ake Festival

What happens when two Afro-optimist giants and pioneers of African cultural advancement form a partnership to host the biggest cultural and artsy event on the continent?

You guessed right. An invitation to an authentic African experience. From October 24-27, the 7th edition of the Aké Arts and Book Festival will take place in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. News Central will, this time, bring you all the action live from the venue.

Themed “Black Bodies: Grey Matter”, this year’s edition will feature book chats, readings, panel discussions, art exhibitions, films, music, theatre and many more creative expressions through black bodies that genuinely tell the African story.

The Ake Festival –  News Central Story

In the royal town of Ake, Ogun State, South-Western Nigeria, the birthplace of Professor Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, a passion for the preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival.

For 6 years, the festival, founded in 2013 by renowned Nigerian writer, Lola Shoneyin has converged Africa’s brightest and most artistically creative minds to engage in pro-African discourse.

And this year, News Central hopes to infuse the “Africa. First.” narrative, an important piece in the Ake Festival puzzle for a successful celebration of Africa in all of her uniqueness.

What does Africa. First. mean for Ake Festival?

In a recent interview, Lola Shoneyin revealed her delight in partnering with News Central, a frontier media platform that puts Africa and Africans in the driver’s seat of our stories.

“I love Africa. First…and I love it because it really resonates with me.”

Lola Shoneyin

Africa. First. is a movement by Africans and for Africa! It seeks to put the conversation on African culture and power back on the front burner.  The African culture is vibrantly expressive, uniquely diverse, progressively modern and enviably embodied in Black Bodies and Grey Matter.

Our boldness and power are sourced from the blood of great inventors, mighty rulers and pioneers of civilisations that courses through our veins. African power is rooted in this transfer and it is our responsibility to protect and prolong it.

News Central is proud to pioneer this movement and shared vision to promote the African culture and power at events such as the Aké Fest, using our balanced and Afro-optimist media platform in making these stories accessible to Africans.

As our Director of Content and Programmes, Becky Muikia puts it:

“We give them a voice on a pan-African scale.”

Becky Muikia

Africa, now is your time!

Promoting, amplifying and celebrating the African experience is at the heart of the Aké Festival and News Central partnership.

For four days, come witness a full blend of Afro cultural immersion and untold stories told by hundreds of writers, poets, dancers, artists, film-makers, and other creatives. Join us on this shared journey by registering to attend here Aké Festival.

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All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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