THE Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in many countries particularly those with weak health infrastructure like Zimbabwe which is also battling poverty of unimaginable proportions and an economic malaise.
According to economic consultant Tony Hawkins the country is in a state of radical uncertainty and is now firefighting the aftermath of Covid-19.
The impact of the disease on various sectors has been severe and counting the losses will take years to put into context.
When the novel disease first landed on the country’s shores in March it waded into an already strained health delivery system.
Nurses and doctors were on strike, public health facilities were operating at below 20% with obsolete equipment and no drugs and sundry.
Unemployment was rampant with the bulk of this group surviving through hustling and odd jobs.
Civil servants who make up the majority of the workforce were disgruntled and constantly withdrawing their services.
Their misery was to be increased fourfold when Covid-19 took root. Due to lockdown measures some would lose jobs, while others found themselves working in high risk areas( the frontline workers)
Soon there were casualties among health workers as well as general populace and the heartache began .
Broadcaster Zororo Makamba was the first known casualty of Covid-19.
His death heralded the beginning of untold misery and heartache for many families that would lose their loved ones to this strange and little known disease which scientists are still trying to understand.
His death exposed not only the ill preparedness of the country but the lies that were told by officials and the corruption .
To date 309 people have lost their lives including another broadcaster Janet Munyaka who recently lost the battle to Covid-19.
A three-month old Kadoma baby became the youngest victim of the disease.
Acting CEO for Bulawayo’s Mpilo Hospital Solwayo Ngwenya has predicted doom over the Christmas season when many will travel and gather in their numbers.
“Coronavirus: it’s spiralling out of control, increasing cases, rising positivity rates, mounting deaths. There will be no Christmas or New Year celebrations, just tears. Lockdown!! ” Ngwenya said.
Expecting mothers were part of the group that bore the worst of the pandemic which to date has infected 11 358 people and the numbers are still rising.
Covid-19 has had devastating consequences on the delivery of sexual reproductive health services and has rolled back several years of progress in improving maternal health.
Zimbabwe is still among countries with high maternal mortality rate (MMR) and research has proved that delays and even lack of access to proper healthcare is a major catalyst to MMR
Maternal deaths, infant mortality rates, stillbirths and unsafe home deliveries were on the rise with women failing to access contraception and maternal health services.
Critical maternal health services, like antenatal care (AN) were hugely disrupted with indications that visits declined by 45% in 2020 (April -July) compared to the same period in 2019.
Learners have had a torrid year especially the examination classes. Schools closed prematurely in March and plunged many into an abyss of confusion.
While the private schools carried in via online, public schools struggled.
With the current exorbitant charges for data the learners from the lower rungs of the social ladder could not match and many fell behind in their studies..
A few lucky ones managed to join the extra lessons being conducted in their teachers homes. But this soon became a super spreader of the disease. Who can forget the dedicated teachers who contracted the disease and died in the line of duty.
The rural folk were the worst hit. With no access to the internet they were left behind. When schools reopened on a pro-rata basis they had to contend with meeting the WHO regulations. There were no sanitisers, thermometers and running water.
As the pupils trooped back to school it became apparent that they had not only lost considerable learning time, but were being exposed to Covid-19.
With their teachers on strike they were left to fend for themselves and before long schools became hot spots for Covid-19.
John Tallach in Ntabazinduna outside Bulawayo is one of the schools that recorded over 100 cases of Covid-19.
Examination time was mired in controversy. From misprinted sheets, wrong timetables, inadequate question papers, among others. All these boobs have cast a shadow of doubt on the integrity of the examinations board Zimsec which for the past few years has been struggling to remain relevant amidst numerous incidences of examination leakages.
The 2020 school calendar has paled into oblivion and the pieces may be hard to pick up and put together again.
Mental health/ NCDs
The advent of Covid-19 sidelined other critical health issues like mental health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Mental health became more prominent in the Covid-19 era with many people battling depression and sadly for some, suicide.
Isolation and quarantine which are both measures being used to mitigate against further spread of the disease have evoked severe emotional stress.
Closely linked to this is the stigma that goes hand in glove with Covid-19.
Communities are still shunning those who have been infected and this can easily cause some mental health problems.
Other diseases suffered as all attention, including resources, was now being given to Covid-19.
But probably the worst catastrophe has been the loss of jobs for many people. The prolonged lockdown forced companies to either shut down or down size its workforce. It will take years for many companies to recover and the unemployment rate will rise. There are now more vendors than before as desperate masses jostle for survival.
But it has not all been doom and gloom. The new normal has brought along some innovations which are not only efficient but cost cutting.
Most meetings are now carried out on Zoom instead of booking at a fancy hotel and paying for food and lodgings for the participants.
Digitalisation has finally found its footing and many will benefit from a techno-savvy way of doing business.
As employees continue to work remotely from their stations, companies will minimise on daily expenses and focus only on the core business..
Covid-19 has also brought health seeking behaviours with more people being conscious of their health and seeking early treatment.
But with the second wave loading and the festive season looming it remains to be seen if Zimbabwe will stand the test of time or has drawn some lessons from the disaster which has literally brought the world to its knees and kept people hidden away in their homes.
The recent announcement of a vaccine is welcome news but it could take a while to get to Africa and as the WHO and other stakeholders have alluded to, complacency should not be tolerated and all should mask up, sanitise and keep vigil until the vaccine gets here.