BY VUSINDLU MAPHOSA All hope is lost for Martin Sibanda as he shakes his head and recounts the 26km journey to and from the closest clinic.
Just like Sibanda, villagers in Sotshe village, Ward 9 have been enduring the pain of walking several kilometres to access health services.
“Access to health services here is so elusive that it requires one to walk across mountains to reach Mhlahlandlela clinic situated in ward 10 even when they are critically ill,” a distressed Sibanda says.
Sibanda says some expecting mothers end up choosing to camp at the clinic to avoid miscarriages caused by the perilous journey from their homes to the health centre.
Umzingwane villagers face continued threats of dying before reaching the closest clinic should they need urgent medical care.
The villagers are blaming the local government for dithering on their plans to construct a clinic to address the problem which has lingered for several decades.
The villagers have now submitted a request for the construction of a clinic in their village to the local government.
But the Umzingwane Rural District Council (RDC) under whose jurisdiction the village lies, has not yet approved the application.
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Sibanda feels the council is not taking the villagers’ right to healthcare seriously and believes the delay in approving the application proves the local authority’s lack of interest in the matter.
Another villager, Senzeni Moyo says the delay in approving the application poses serious threats to the vulnerable members of the community such as pregnant women, chronically ill people and the elderly.
“The delay is a threat to vulnerable members of the community such as pregnant women. Chronically ill people and the elderly are also affected,” says Moyo.
Ward 9 Councillor, Bekezela Moyo, believes the approval of the plan by the local authority has taken unnecessarily long.
“It’s been a long time since we applied for the construction of the clinic. It is our wish that the council view the project as a matter of urgency.”
“We have lost lives, especially women who give birth along the way to the clinic, while some lose their babies due to unsafe delivery methods at home,” Moyo says.
Moyo says chronic patients end up defaulting on taking medication while some mothers fail to take their children to the baby clinic because of the distance.
“Villagers have always resorted to using scotch carts to travel which is not comfortable for a sick person,” Moyo says.
Umzingwane RDC chief executive officer, Ndumiso Mpofu says it is not true that the local authority is sitting on the application.
“We are still waiting for the physical planning department to produce a site plan, before we will act as a local authority. We have adopted a master plan for each and every ward to locate a site where a clinic will be constructed,” he said.
“We will use the 2023 wards development funds budget for such projects to be undertaken looking at the fact that community members walk long distances to access health facilities.”
“We do not stop the communities from continuing to continue mobilising resources for the building material of the clinics from sponsors or well-wishers.”
- * This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a hybrid news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the greater region of Matabeleland.