After arguing in this column a few weeks ago that the Health and Child Welfare ministry was being irresponsible for administering anti–bilharzia and intestinal worm tablets without the requisite public awareness, I sadly write again this week to re-affirm my position, shared by many parents and guardians – that this is one careless and shameful ministry.
Guest Column with Rashweat Mukundu
This, I say, noting that three deaths of children who took part in this programme have been recorded.
These are deaths that have been recorded and there could be as many other such related deaths that the media and the ministry have missed.
As I stated a few weeks ago, the Health ministry has demonstrated a shocking disregard for human life and contempt for citizen rights simply by taking our health for granted.
This is even more sad for a ministry that is led by doctors at almost every level, from the minister, the deputy, permanent secretary and directors.
It is sad and a national scandal that parents of the three dead children had no idea that what was meant to help in advancing the health of their children would on the contrary, result in their demise.
These parents and guardians, like many, were not fully informed of what to expect and had they known, they could probably have taken a decision or actions to protect their children.
When this programme was being carried out, there was no public education on whether children suffering from different conditions, be it those on ARV treatment, could take these drugs.
There was no information or awareness on whether children on other forms of treatment, short or long term, could take this cocktail of death.
The Health ministry in its wisdom made the decision for us – passed the message through some school circular and we were supposed to kneel down and say Yebo Nkosi.
Despite the recorded three deaths, as many children are sick, have been missing school classes and those parents and guardians who can afford have expended money in medical treatment – not at government hospitals which are almost dysfunctional, but at private hospitals and clinics.
I am yet to hear whether the ministry made any efforts to contact those families who lost children to explain what happened and comfort them and those still sick on what measures to take.
I am yet to hear of any emergency centres that have been set moreso in rural areas to deal with emergency cases.
Often, health centres in rural areas are tens of kilometres away and faced with a sick child – many rural parents or guardians are caught between a rock and hard place.
Not only are the health centres far away, they probably do not have trained staff, medication and critically, the staff may not have received enough information on what to do when faced with such emergencies.
If there is anything that describes and defines sleeping on the job then nothing beats this latest boob by the so called Health ministry.
The problem with such ministries is that they maintain a contemptuous attitude towards citizens they are supposed to serve.
This contempt is based on the “them” and “us” attitude. “Them” being the povo who are sick, ignorant and need the “Us”, doctors who are knowledgeable and who, through their “benevolence”, save us from our sicknesses of poverty.
It is on this basis that the Health ministry’s programmes are shrouded in technical language, and serious blunders are still hidden under procedures.
The deputy Health minister Paul Chimedza was telling us that they are expecting results of the investigation into the three deaths and before that, they do not know what could have gone wrong.
Whatever these results say is exactly what the Health ministry should have known before embarking on this programme.
One wonders whether the parents of the three children and many thousands more who are hallucinating, getting weak, vomiting and collapsing will ever get a logical answer.
One cannot therefore not stop wondering whether the children of the poor were used as guinea pigs.
I even wonder whether this programme was administered in private schools where the children of the “us” go to .
One cannot blame the lack of budgetary support because public awareness does not cost much.
It is after all, the role of the state‒owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Co-operation (ZBC) and indeed all licensed broadcasting stations to transmit public‒interest information.
I do not remember the minister holding a Press conference to launch this programme.
On the contrary, the launch programme involved administering the deadly drug that has resulted in three deaths and as many illnesses.
It is becoming clear that there is a huge disjuncture between training in medicine and training in management.
And, what the Health ministry needs as of yesterday are management skills in dealing with the citizen health issues.
Simply assuming that doctors know how to manage national health programmes is akin to assuming that a pilot knows how to assemble a Boeing engine.
And, for many years, the blunder of successive governments has been to think that the Ministry of Health must be led by medical doctors, some of whom are not even capable of taking care of their own health judging by their renowned alcohol abuse.
It is no surprise therefore that one of the most secretive ministries is that of Health and Child Welfare – this secretive attitude is to hide maggots in their cardboards.
Citizens need to confront this ministry as it so important to be left to the unthinking no matter what the certificates hanging in their offices say.
I maintain my stance, this is a shameful and careless ministry.
No wonder we have as many traditional healers and prophets doing brisk business, many now making a killing “diagnosing” and “healing” the side effects of the ministry anti–bilharzias and intestinal programme.