Frontline health workers in Zimbabwe continue to be exposed to COVID-19 infection as they still do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). This is despite a High Court order which compelled government to provide equipment that meets international standards.
The order was made by the High Court on April 14, in response to a petition filed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on behalf of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) on April 5, over lack of proper equipment to deal with the spread of the virus.
But to date, government has not honoured this ruling.
What makes the Zimbabwean situation worse is the fact that the health employees are not being remunerated for the risks they are taking.
It is bad enough that they are exposed along with their families, but to be made to go hungry is an affront to human dignity.
We implore the government to adhere to the High Court order which stipulates that all health workers should be given PPE in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
Why do health workers need to fight to get PPE to help the country through the COVID-19 crisis? This is downright incompetence on the part of the Health minister and his Finance counterpart. Or perhaps this crisis has opened doors for more corruption? It is a ridiculous situation.
Neighbouring countries such as South Africa have taken aggressive measures to ensure that their health workers are appropriately clothed.
Provision of basics such as masks, gowns and gloves should be a consistent measure that can never be compromised.
To date, two health workers have already been infected in the line of duty and if no drastic and deliberate strategies are put in place many will be exposed. This is the reason we hear nurses that are shunning suspected COVID-19 patients. Yes, they have sworn to the Hippocratic oath, but under the prevailing situation we are unfairly sacrificing them.
Government has a duty to protect the people it relies upon in times of emergency. They have an obligation to ensure that no matter what, the hospital staff is safeguarded.
Imagining facilities without these people should be a very scary and sobbering thought.
Let us spare a thought for these heroes who each morning leave their homes unsure if they will last the day without being infected.
How are they supposed to give their best when fear is a very present feature in their day-to-day duties?
If we are to win the fight against this disease, we need to equip our frontline team and also incentivise them, that way their families can also benefit. The tendency to ignore the plight of health workers should be discarded, we are dealing with a disease which has the potential to wipe out the whole universe. The way health workers are treated elsewhere is in stark contrast to what is obtaining in Zimbabwe.
To the brave men and women who risk their lives everyday with little or no protection, we say we honour you and applaud your efforts. Your safety is our concern as a nation because without you our chances of surviving dwindle.