Tuesday, 28 April 2020

NOT IN MHONDORO : VILLAGERS IN DENIAL

Mhondoro villager Mr Christopher Chitemere, who tested positive for Covid-19 and is in self-isolation,

The death of Gogo Nguni, nee Chitemere, has left the community in her village in Mhondoro puzzled, with some denying she succumbed to Covid-19, despite the positive test made when she was taken to Harare.

Most insist Gogo Nguni died of old age as she could no longer walk beyond her gated homestead. She moved about with the aid of a walker.

However, there are three positive tests in the area, with health authorities puzzled as to where the source could be, hence a mass test of all villagers.

Village speculation and other obvious gaps in local knowledge systems have led community leaders to call for better dissemination of information in rural areas, where many rely on word of mouth rather than getting correct facts from the media.

Gogo Nguni spent much of her time indoors as her health was failing, with two house helpers and two herders at the homestead.

Her way of life did not change with the lockdown as she was already almost totally isolated.

Both herders stayed within the compound, but have tested negative for Covid-19, while the helpers worked on two-week shifts, with one of them testing positive when mass testing of those in the area was conducted. 

But the helper’s family, where she would go during her off days, are said to have tested negative, leaving health authorities puzzled.

The other helper and her family, where she went during off days, are said to have tested negative. The helpers are from Chegutu and Chinhoyi.

The nurse who had been attending to Gogo Nguni before she was evacuated to Harare has also been tested. Her results were pending at time of going to print.

Following Gogo Nguni’s death, two of her contacts tested positive — the helper and a nephew who stayed a stone’s throw away from her homestead.

In an interview yesterday, the nephew, Mr Christopher Chitemere, said he was shocked to hear that his aunt succumbed to Covid-19.

He was self-isolating because he was advised to do so by health workers, but he was neither exhibiting signs nor symptoms of any ailment. 

“Well, yes, they told me that I tested positive and they advised me to self-isolate and practise good personal hygiene, which is what I am doing,” said Mr Chitemere.

“However, I am feeling all right. I do not have any sign or symptom of any disease. As for my aunt, we all know she was old and because of her age she was repeatedly falling ill.”

Mr Chitemere said apart from her two sons and daughter-in-law, no one else was visiting Gogo Nguni since the lockdown.

He was concerned over social media reports that a certain Christopher Chitemere, who was in the United Kingdom, had met his aunt.

“I am Christopher Chitemere and I was never in the UK,” he said. “We are hearing all this through social media. In fact, what we now hear is that there is another Christopher Chitemere who recently came back from the UK, but we are not related in any way. “

Mr Sylvester Nguni, one of the late Gogo Nguni’s children, has since revealed that he, together with his wife, have tested negative for Covid-19.

Mr Orevero Chauruka, one of the two herders, said they still can’t believe that Gogo Nguni succumbed to Covid-19.

“We are also keen to know what could have happened, but what I know is that for the past five months that I have been working here, Gogo never left this place,” he said. “She always stayed indoors.”
  
Mr Chauruka quashed speculation that they could have picked up the virus from other villagers during cattle herding, saying they do not mix with other herders for fear of having their cattle infected.

Other villagers interviewed were still in denial that Gogo Nguni could have died of Covid-19, attributing her demise to old age.

MP for Mhondoro-Mubaira Constituency, Cde Freddy Kapuya, who has taken it upon himself to disseminate basic information on Covid-19, as well as hygiene materials such as masks, sanitisers and soaps, said there was need for health education and mass testing of people, not only in Mhondoro, but all rural areas.

He said although results of the health worker who was attending to Gogo Nguni before she was transferred to Harare were still pending, the community has begun labelling and discriminating against her, contributing to stigma around the disease.

“People lack knowledge,” said Cde Kapuya. “Unlike in urban areas where information is readily available through different media platforms, here it is directly the opposite.

“Information is usually disseminated by way of mouth and village heads are the key persons when it comes to information dissemination, but you will find that most of them do not know anything about the disease.” 

Cde Kapuya said health authorities should investigate all community deaths, arguing that the number of elderly people dying seems to have gone up of late.

The area’s traditional leader, Chief Nyamweda, buttressed the need for health education, saying most people were relying on hearsay.

“In the absence of official communication, hearsay carries the day and this is what is happening here,” he said.

No immediate comment could be obtained from Health and Child Care Ministry officials on progress regarding mass testing, as well as health education in the community, but unconfirmed statistics indicated that about 300 people have so far been tested in Gogo Nguni’s community.

Gogo Nguni became the 4th person to die of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe. Herald

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