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The Rise of COVID-19 Cases Overwhelmes Zimbabwe’s Health Care System

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

At this juncture, nations worldwide are focusing on their specific needs based on the impact that the COVID-19 virus has brought to their country. One country in particular, however, has been teetering on the verge of collapse. In Zimbabwe, a country of over 14 and a half million people, doctors have announced that at the current rate the virus is spreading, the impending growth of infections could lead to the ultimate failure of the healthcare system.

Before Christmas, Zimbabwe was relatively successful in stopping the virus’s spread, averaging around 100 new cases every day. However, the approach of the holiday season led to mass gatherings and disregard of COVID-19 guidelines. Since the start of 2021, Zimbabwe has averaged 700 daily cases, with an all-time peak of 1,365 cases on January 5th. There are concerns that these numbers may be heavily undercounted due to the healthcare system’s lack of resources, including the number of COVID-19 tests.

Zimbabwe’s struggles with its healthcare system are well documented. The nation has faced many problems over the years in its health sector: a shortage of skilled health workers, ill-equipped hospitals, and a scarcity of medicine are just a few to note. These medical issues have led to the spread of other viruses as well. In 2018, the WHO declared a Cholera outbreak in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, with roughly 9000 cases reported. The current pandemic has exacerbated the problems within the nation, leading to a health crisis far worse than any the country has seen. Inevitably, it will lead to the imminent collapse of the healthcare system if significant changes are not implemented soon.

Since the recent outbreak, the Zimbabwean government has announced new guidelines restricting movement to only the most essential services. As part of the restrictions, stores now close at 3 PM, as outlined in the mandate. Additionally, a dusk to dawn curfew is in place to repel large gatherings. Any violation of these lockdowns is punished by harsh prison sentences, as evidenced by the 52 citizens arrested after a large New Year’s gathering.

The rise of these COVID-19 cases hasn’t only targeted regular citizens. According to the Zimbabwean Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), more than 1,000 frontline workers have been infected by the virus. The rise in healthcare workers’ cases has been attributed to the shortcomings of the healthcare system, as it has been unable to provide the workers with adequate gear.

On January 29th, Vice President Constantino Chiwenago announced a two-week extension to the lockdown amid concerns of the spreading of new COVID-19 strains and variants. Chiwenago noted the relative success of the original lockdown, which has reduced the number of cases since its implementation.

As the numbers of cases inevitably rise once more, the success of the government’s new measures will be determined by the amount of growth in COVID-19 cases. In the coming weeks and months, the strength of Zimbabwe’s health care system will truly be put to the test.

Through Teen Lenses: Have you heard about the struggles that the Zimbabwean health care system has faced? Also, do you believe that the new lockdown restrictions the country has put into place will be successful?

“The inability of the Zimbabwean healthcare system to provide for its citizens during a deadly pandemic is heartbreaking to say the least. The lack of supplies and the worn-down system is clearly being overwhelmed by the wild numbers the country is facing. Despite the hard work of doctors, the government’s shortcomings undermine their efforts, flooding hospitals throughout the country. I believe the lockdown is an essential step toward slowing the spread of this pandemic in Zimbabwe and looking out for the health of its citizens.”  Avyay Potarlanka, 17, Urbana High School, Urbana, MD
“I have heard about the Zimbabwean health care system’s struggles. It is tragic to see Zimbabwe’s government fail to maintain a strong health care system, especially in times like now. For a hospital to have a limited supply of standard items such as gloves, needles, and painkillers, shows that the government needs to take better action. I believe they are taking a step in the right direction with the strict lockdown. By enforcing a lockdown, cases will drop, although in order for it to be successful, aid must be made for the individuals in poorer nations.” Shishir Poreddy, 17, Urbana High School, Urbana, MD
“I haven’t heard much about what’s going on in Zimbabwe, but their struggles with controlling the Coronavirus as well as their health care system is saddening to see. I believe that the new lockdown that was implemented in the country will be successful. Hopefully, the lockdown won’t crush the livelihoods of their citizens and they can return to a somewhat normal life once the lockdown has ended.” Sahithi Kondam, 19, Indiana University, North Potomac, MD


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