For retired teacher Moffat Dube, the coming on to the health scene of non-governmental organisation Hope for Mtshabezi Trust in his Sitezi area to offer free medical assistance has been of great help.
“They have been very helpful,” said the 73-year-old in an interview with NewsDay at Sitezi Clinic last week.
“They gave me tablets which under normal circumstances I would not have managed to get at this clinic. I would have had to travel more than 50km to Gwanda town to get the tablets from the hospital there”.
Dube said the challenge he faced was that he would have had to pay at the provincial hospital to access his medication.
“I do not have money at the moment. The medication that I have been given has come in handy so that my condition may remain under control,” said Dube, who suffers from high-blood pressure.
“Whenever the organisation comes here, they always make sure that they leave some more tablets which we access when we need more,” he said as other villagers sat in a long queue, waiting to be attended to.
Norma Nkiwane, the councillor for Ward 8 under which the clinic falls, said the organisation had brought in medical personnel three times since June 2009.
“This is third time they have brought in doctors here. Their visits are very important as they also impart knowledge to villagers on the importance of ensuring that they prioritise their health,” she said. Nkiwane said with health institutions located far away from villages, Hope for Mtshabezi Trust’s strategy of visiting remote clinics was helpful.
Pharo Dube, the Trust’s director, said his organisation, formed by people from Gwanda in the Diaspora, was established to “offer free health care to villagers”.
“We started in 2006,” he said. “At that time, we were focusing only on Mtshabezi Hospital which is run by the Brethren in Christ Church. We then provided equipment and medication to the hospital.”
After realising that most people in outlying areas did not have access to medication, they decided to expand the programme to clinics such as Stanmore, Makwe and Simbumbumbu, he said.
The equipment and medication is sourced by Hope for Mtshabezi USA, he said.
“Our founders in America are people who hail from this area,” he said.
“Our chairperson, Doreen Khumalo, lives in America and ensures that we get all the equipment that we need.”
The organisation approaches doctors and nurses to volunteer to provide health care to villagers.
“We have a number of doctors from Cuba who volunteer as well as a few local ones,” said Dube.
Hope for Mtshabezi Trust focuses on helping mostly children and elderly, he said.
“Most people are referred to hospitals from the clinics, but they do not go there owing to lack of funds and the issue of distance,” he said.
“We therefore bring medication closer to make life easier for them. There is great need for health delivery in these communities.”
One of the volunteers, Alick Mlotshwa, a theatre-trained nurse, said the programme always attracts a lot of people.
“When we first visited here, there were so many people who came such that we had to use Sitezi Primary School to dispense the drugs,” he said.
Mlotshwa also bemoaned poverty levels in the area and concurred with Dube that prohibitive medical costs made it difficult for villagers to access specialist attention in public hospitals after being referred there.
He said there was also need to convince villagers to part with some of their livestock in order to pay for their medical bills.
“You find somebody would be very sick but they refuse to sell even one beast so that they pay specialists. They would rather compromise their health and this should change,” he said.
The volunteer medical staff also counsels villagers on HIV and Aids-related issues.
“People have to be told that you may be HIV positive but continue to live a normal life. If you test positive, it does not mean that you will die instantly,” Mlotshwa said.