Village health workers exposed to COVID-19

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VILLAGE health workers (VHWs) in Mudzi, Mashonaland East province, have decried the unfavourable working conditions they are subjected to while fighting the ravaging effects of COVID-19.

BY VANESSA GONYE

Speaking to NewsDay in Mutoko recently, some health workers said they were still carrying out their duties without personal protective equipment (PPE) or sanitisers.

Conias Nyandoro, a VHW in the Nyamanyora area of Mudzi district said the local clinic had run out of gloves.

“We are working in a difficult situation as we cannot turn away people who need our services. We used to get gloves from the nearby Nyamanyora Clinic, but they have also run out,” he said.
A nurse at the local clinic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were exposed to COVID-19.

Health workers, who are on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight have been raising concern over poor working conditions.

Another VHW said they were paid on a quarterly basis.

“We are getting US$14 per month which is paid on a quarterly basis. However, we end up getting way less than that in local currency after financial service providers would have rated the money,” Lillian Kwiri said.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said VHWs’ welfare should be prioritised.

“We call upon the government to acknowledge and recognise the important roles of the VHWs at community level by supporting their work and ensure that resources allocated in the budget for VHWs reach them and are accessible to these community level cadres for their work instead of the current situation where there is overreliance on donors to support and fund VHWs,” he said.

“It looks like there is a serious shortage of PPE for the frontline health workers despite donations of PPE having been received from both international donors and the local corporate community. Maybe there is a challenge with the distribution system from NatPharm to the health facilities or there are leakages within the system.

“The government should also be honest by telling development partners that it has no capacity to source and supply the PPE to the frontline health workers so that they can get all the necessary help and be able to protect the health workers and their clients from COVID-19 infection.”