BY MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI Not many people in Muzarabani North, the majority of whom can hardly afford more than one meal a day; have never witnessed such a spectacular show of fuel-guzzling SUVs in a convoy in their lifetime.
The only “big” cars that drive around the area belong to donor organisations or when the local MP pays them a visit, something that rarely happens.
Last Wednesday, it was a display of opulence in a sea of poverty in hard-to-reach communities of Chiwenga, Kairezi and Chadereka in Muzarabani North when Defence and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri commissioned a water project in the area.
For villagers in this part of the country, which is in the Zambezi basin and one of the most marginalised communities, civilisation is a foreign phenomenon.
They told Muchinguri-Kashiri that they have been subjected to hardships due to lack of basic amenities in the area, which has affected the socio-economic activities and human capital development of the area.
Muchinguri-Kashiri was in Muzarabani’s Chiwenga ward 24 and Kairezi ward 23 to handover infrastructural projects implemented by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society with support from the Finnish Red Cross.
The projects included a standard classroom block a mothers’ waiting shelter and a solar-powered water scheme.
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“We face a number of challenges here, especially lack of basic amenities like health centres,” said Esnath Kadonzvo, one of the expecting mothers who had come for prenatal care at Chiwenga Clinic.
Kadonzvo was speaking to The Standard on the sidelines of Muchinguri-Kashiri’s visit to the clinic, which serves a population of about 7 795 people, including patients from Mozambique.
“In my case I travelled more than 20km from Kairezi to register for maternity services here because we don’t have a clinic in our area,” she said.
“I had to weigh options to go to Chadereka or to come this side, but my colleagues opted for this side.”
Kadonzvo is among hundreds of expecting mothers in Muzarabani North, who have had to endure long distances to seek prenatal care services.
“We have seen our friends and relatives die while giving birth because of the absence of health centres in our area,” she said.
“Some end up having home deliveries which are dangerous and ofen life-threatening after they would have failed to raise money to go to St Alberts Hospital, 200km away.”
Chiwenga Clinic’s sister-in-charge Vimbai Muguti told Muchinguri-Kashiri that the facility was overwhelmed as it serves a large catchment area.
“We serve clients from as far as 25 to 30km away and some come from Mozambique,” she said.
“This causes a strain on our resources and it becomes a very big challenge.
“The other problem is that due to long distances, expecting mothers would opt for home deliveries.”
Muguti appealed to the government and its partner organisations to help the clinic with furniture.
Muzarabani district development coordinator John Kahobo said most communities in the district, especially in Muzarabani North, do not have electricity, they lack water and sanitation services, and there is an acute shortage of medical facilities and schools.
“The roads are unnavigable and most bridges that were washed away many years ago are yet to be repaired, thereby cutting off communities from social amenities in places such as Muzarabani growth point and Centenary,” Kahobo said.
“We also have problems of human-wildlife conflict. Just recently, a man was killed by a hippopotamus while elephants are a menace in the villages where they come in search for food.”
Kahobo said being close to the shores of Zambezi River, the community of Muzarabani North suffered constant flooding during rainy seasons.
Villagers said they encountered multiple challenges which impacted negatively on their well-being.
Muzarabani North MP Zhemu Soda said most communities in the area were cut off from social amenities by the absence of Hoya Bridge, which was washed away many years ago.
“Honourable minister when you came here you crossed a big river called Hoya. That river cannot be crossed when it rains because the bridge was washed away during the liberation war,” Soda said.
“As a result, our people cannot cross to the other side to seek services during the rainy season.
“This whole district does not have a hospital and the only referral hospital that is in the district belongs to the mission, which controls everything.
“Our people are having challenges when they are referred to the hospital because it’s far away and we do not have an ambulance.
“While we welcome the Red Cross water project, we also believe we need a dam to take care of the whole of Muzarabani North.”
Soda, however, said a raft of intervention programmes have been put in place by the government to address the challenges in Muzarabani North.
“We are set to launch the rural development programme focusing on the provision of safe, reliable and sustainable water for communities,” he said.
“Here in Muzarabani we were fortunate that the responsible ministry headed by Honourable (Anxious) Masuka is coming here to launch the water programme where each village would have its own solar-powered borehole.”
“These projects are in line what His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa is advocating for that no one and no place should be left behind.”
Muchinguri-Kashiri bemoaned the poor road network in Muzarabani North, saying it was retarding development.
“If I had been flown here, I wouldn’t have seen these roads. You people, your roads are awful,” she said.
“How do you expect to develop this area when you have such horrible roads?
“You need to take this issue of roads and bridges up urgently. This is serious!
“I am told water is another challenge, but fortunately we have our all-weather friends Red Cross who have brought you safe and reliable water.
“However, you need to work on issues to do with health because what I saw at Chiwenga Clinic is not pleasing at all.
“Let’s work together to support the aspirations of His Excellency Cde Mnangagwa.”
Muchinguri-Kashiri promised villagers that efforts were being done to transform Muzarabani into a town.
“Our rural development thrust is to change the lives of our people for the better.
“Muzarabani, just like Binga, is a priority area under the rural development programme.”
ZRCS national president Edson Mlambo said his organisation will continue augmenting government efforts to improve the lives of people, especially in marginalised communities like Muzarabani.
“We are here to stay in Muzarabani and with support from our friends like Finnish Red Cross we will continue working in such communities,” Mlambo said.
“Our mandate as Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering and that’s why we are here.”