Outbreaks of epidemic disease have long been a threat to lives and livelihoods in Mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe. A cholera epidemic in 2008, measles in 2009, and malaria in 2010 each caused hundreds of preventable deaths and starkly illustrated that Zimbabwe lacks the capacity to protect vulnerable populations from the threat of communicable disease. Following each of these emergencies, International Medical Corps and partner NGOs responded with programmes to protect vulnerable populations in the future. As a result, subsequent outbreaks of these diseases were far less severe and did not reach epidemic levels.
Inspired by these achievements and supported by innovative funding from ECHO, International Medical Corps launched a programme, working in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health to build the emergency preparedness capacity in Mashonaland Central Province, to enable these communities to respond to the threat of epidemic disease themselves.
Shorai Chikonamombe from Tsakari area was one of 200 Village Health Workers trained by International Medical Corps in hygiene and health issues, disease prevention, identification and treatment. These VHW’s now form an essential part of the local primary health care system in the area.
The terms of the ECHO grant, provided each of the VHW’s with a bicycle, allowing Shorai and his colleagues to reach communities many miles from the health centre and visit people in their homes, thereby relieving strain on the busy clinic. The skills taught by International Medical Corps are now being passed on through community health clubs, set up by VHW’s and supported by our staff, spreading the simple but life saving messages about hygiene, latrines and spotting the signs of disease before they become fatal.
International Medical Corps is also training medical staff in clinics and hospitals across the region, in emergency care, disease management, primary and secondary healthcare and reproductive health. Through this co-ordinated approach to strengthening local capacity and community education, preventable, epidemic disease will one day become a thing of the past in this region of Zimbabwe.
Shorai believes that his status within his community has been boosted by the training and knowledge he now has, and his fellow villagers will listen to his advice about health and hygiene. The relief he hoped for has not come from the heavens but is being built day by day within the community itself.