By Staff Reporter
VILLAGE health workers (VHW) across Zimbabwe are now part of key frontline staff providing services to hundreds of thousands of people living poor communities with limited access to healthcare centres as they disseminate basic medical services and information.
Their dedication to work has been highly appreciated in the communities they live as many families are benefitting from the basic healthcare services they provide and messages on how families can cope under the deadly Covid-19 pandemic among other medical complications.
The provisions of these services have become the daily life of a Chipinge couple, Prisca Gwenzi (50) and her husband Caiphas Mtisi, who are both village health workers.
In their tiny living room in rural Chipinge recently, Gwenzi unlocked a metal box and took stock of medicines stored inside. Mtisi sat on an old sofa, holding a pen in one hand and scrolling in exercise book to note the details of beneficiaries who had made a visit at the homestead.
“She is the expert, I am the assistant,” said Mtisi, grinning widely.
Outside, a group of local women sat on the veranda as the rains pounded, waiting to be tested for malaria, a killer disease in Chipinge.
Gwenzi has been a VHW for the past 10 years after receiving training at Mt Selinda Mission Hospital also in Chipinge.
Her commitment to serving the community has influenced her husband who has also turned into a strong advocate for children and women’s health issues and rights.
Apart from helping his wife with domestic chores when she is busy with locals seeking health services, he also moves around the community promoting health issues among his male peers who are often reluctant to take medical matters seriously.
The wife-husband team has turned out to be an example of how skills imparted to VHWs are bringing positive effects in rural communities.
Many female VHWs have indirectly recruited their husbands, children or extended family members in their quest and drive for healthier local communities.
In Mtisi’s case, he is always at hand to ease the workload for his wife.
“There are times when people come here in their numbers with babies and I will be there to welcome them, telling people to wash their hands at the entrance and ensuring that they maintain social distancing and keep their face masks on,” he told NewZimbabwe.com.
“I cannot do her actual job because she is the one who is trained one. I am just a layman helping out.”
Mtisi said he was pleased and supportive when his wife managed to attend VHW Covid-19 training recently.
“She can go for days and I don’t mind being alone. I know she will be getting valuable training that the community and I will benefit from. I accepted my role as her helper the day she was chosen to do this job.”
In the packed room, solar batteries, lights and a panel competed for space with health informational charts, books, boxes of face masks and sanitisers and a small television.
The solar items are used to light a down pole and metal sheets shade outside the homestead when pregnant women with labour pains knock in the dead of the night while they wait for an ambulance to take them to the hospital or in need of urgent medical attention from Gwenzi.
“I don’t know how I would manage without my husband. He is my pillar of support,” said Gwenzi.
Gwenzi is one of dozens of VHWs in Chipinge who are providing critical first-line help to villagers under the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP).
The project is implemented by UNICEF and funded by the World Bank.
UNICEF said it is working in nine districts affected by Cyclone Idai in March 2019. It is focusing on critical areas such as reconstruction, health, education and WASH.