COVID-19 survivors speak out in celebrity-backed anti-stigma campaign

Tonderai Ndiraya

Staff Reporter

As the country records an increasing number of COVID-19 recoveries, survivors are sharing their experiences in a new anti-stigma campaign, dubbed ‘#SolidarityNotStigma’ that has roped in some of the country’s leading sports and musical celebrities in the fight against discrimination.

Under the campaign, survivors are sharing stories of how they fought the disease, and what communities need to know in order to fight both the virus and the stigma attached to it. Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF), a multi-donor programme which is leading the campaign, is releasing testimonials from COVID-19 survivors in order to raise awareness on the dangers of coronavirus stigma.

“As we designed our COVID-19 Anti-Stigma campaign, we knew it would be very important to try to communicate that anyone in the country can get it, that the virus can be beaten and that it is vital for all of us to show our love for those who have contracted the virus. No one can communicate this better than actual COVID-19 survivors sharing their experience in their own words,” said Aaron Sundsmo, Team Leader of the Resilience Knowledge Hub at ZRBF.

Since the first positive case of coronavirus was detected in Zimbabwe in March, the country has had over 7500 cases. While 80% of those that contract the virus recover fully, the pandemic has seen survivors facing community discrimination partly due to ignorance, fear and fake news. Many cases have been reported of survivors being shunned by neighbours, colleagues and facing various forms of ill-treatment just for having tested positive for coronavirus.

“To amplify our message, we partnered with musical artists who were socially minded, have a deep relationship with their audience and were committed to getting involved to reduce stigma in their communities. Thankfully Zimbabwe has been blessed with many such thoughtful and committed artists. We were thrilled that so many of them were willing to partner with us, which we hope will reach millions of Zimbabweans”, elaborated Sundsmo.

Celebrities who joined in the campaign in order to show support to survivors and speak out against stigma include Winky D, Ammara Brown and Tamy Moyo. Among those involved in the campaign are the country’s two biggest trams, Dynamos and Highlanders, a recognition of the influential role that the country’s biggest sport, football, can play in the fight against the virus.

Taking part in the #SolidarityNotStigma campaign, Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya and Bosso captain and goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda have spoken out against any discrimination of survivors.

“In football, we know that you need your supporters more when you are down. It’s the same with Covid-19. We must support each other. We should make sure that everyone knows that Covid-19 is nobody’s fault,” said Ndiraya.

Added Sibanda: “We have seen from all over the world that even sports personalities are not immune to this virus. So COVID-19 affects sports personalities and their fans too. So there is no need to discriminate against those affected, because all of us can be affected. Coaches can be affected, players too, and also the fans. So we need solidarity, not stigma.”

ZRBF is a multi-donor program managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Embassy of Sweden, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Denmark.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 testimonial videos can be accessed through the #SolidarityNotStigma hashtag and can be viewed on various Newsday social media platforms that are amplifying this message.