Written by Fadzai Lydia Midzi- (Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association)
Just like the rest of the world, Zimbabwe is grappling with the challenge of containing coronavirus. So far 7 cases have been confirmed as at 30 March 2020. This is only a tip of an iceberg. With cases on the rise, there is need for Covid-19 preparedness measures to flatten the curve. Zimbabwe is endowed with vast mineral wealth deposits; Diamonds are one of the key strategic minerals expected to contribute to economic recovery. Therefore, the mineral wealth that the country poses should assist in responding to the country’s needs.
Health should not depend on wealth. But far too often it does, and it has a huge impact. The state pf preparedness of diamond mining affected communities’ rests in the diamond wealth they possess. It is important for Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) to lead in COVID-19 preparedness in the Manicaland area. Diamonds are the only hope the communities have in surviving this health pandemic.
The communities are already vulnerable in terms of remoteness and poverty which makes most of them unable to afford COVID-19 prevention measures. The remoteness of these communities limits their knowledge on how to protect themselves from the health pandemic. Efforts have been made by the government in raising awareness through television, radio, newspapers, social media though there remains a gap in reaching the marginalised communities in remote areas such as Chiadzwa, Marange and Bocha.
The vulnerability of these communities to this virus is unspeakable and it is important to take a gear up towards preparedness, this will bring out the connection between diamond wealth and health amidst this health disaster. Manicaland has not fully recovered from Cyclone Idai disaster, therefore it is important to make sure that this time around communities are well prepared to manage the COVID-19 public health disaster. To ensure COVID-19 preparedness, community participation and involvement is vital. One of the local women in Chiadzwa expressed the community fears on the recent 21-day lockdown and how it will affect their livelihoods when most people live from hand to mouth.
“We are concerned about our vegetable farming business; these are perishables which are currently facing demand risks. We sell fresh (vegetables and tomatoes) there is no market since people are indoors, selling door to door is difficult and puts us at risk.”
These women were selling their produce to ZCDC and they are concerned on how they will move forward given the recent developments on COVID-19 prevention. A Chimanimaniresident indicated their fear for people living in remote areas being affected the most if the virus hits because they lack preparedness and they do not have clinics. This is an area that has not fully recovered from Cyclone Idai disaster effects.
“Our local health workers have no transportation to raise awareness in the remote areas due to the lock down and their capacity to handle COVID-19 cases is questionable.’’
Global wide, efforts are being channelled towards stopping the spread of the virus and protecting people it is imperative for ZCDC to take part in the global fight against the virus. ZCDC should take COVID-19 preparedness as one of its Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative and join the global movement against COVID-19. With the diamond sector being toxic in disappointments due to unmet expectations, it is time for ZCDC to iron out conflicts by meeting communities at their time of need. This is also an opportunity for the company to prove that its CSR initiatives are needs driven and sought to solve real community problems.
Through this initiative the company can help to prove that its diamonds are contributing to local sustainable development in communities were resources are extracted. It is a time to prove that diamonds are working for people and that the 12 billion mining strategy “the minerals of hope” brings back hope to the people by helping to solve the public health pandemic and literally save lives. Community health is at stake and diamonds can provide a source of hope and redemption in this public health pandemic.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) proposes that ZCDC takes lead in COVID-19 prevention in Manicaland to enhance and reciprocate government efforts to stop the spread of the virus through the following.
Conduct massive radio programmes with the local radio station covering.
- Awareness on COVID-19 prevention measures such as washing of hands using soap and hand sanitisers. This will bring out the importance of personal protective measures as advised by the World Health Organisation.
- Discussions on the recent developments made by the government on social distancing the 21-day lock down and SI 2020-077 Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment). This can be done with community groups such as Health Centre Committees, Advocacy groups and Community based Organisations.
- Encourage community participation during the awareness programmes. This will enhance people’s knowledge on COVID-19 prevention. The radio programmes will also be critical in harvesting information on what is happening on the ground in terms of prevention, bringing out the challenges and opportunities that can be leveraged to improve community preparedness on the pandemic.
- Prepare Manicaland COVID-19 state of preparedness reports covering issues on the ground shared by communities during the radio programmes.
- Provide regular updates on COVID-19 through social media platforms such as twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and bulk SMS.
- Conduct special radio sessions where Youths, Women and People with disabilities are given a platform to discuss on COVID-19 prevention and the challenges they face in preventing the spread of the virus. This will encourage participation of the marginalised groups during the awareness campaigns.
- ZCDC can assist Mutare General Hospital’s preparedness including setting up response mechanisms and handling of COVID-19 patients through provision of personal protective equipment for the hospital’ staff members.
- There has been a huge concern over the shortage of ventilators and test kits in the country, therefore it would be imperative for ZCDC to provide ventilators and test kits for the hospital.
- The diamond company must ensure that services such as water, electricity are available at the hospital. This will be a good move in making sure that Mutare is well equipped to handle the pandemic and not depend on Wilkins hospital in Harare.
- Provide COVID-19 test kits to local community clinics and assist local COVID-19 trained health workers with transport so that they can travel to remote areas and raise awareness on the COVID-19.
- Provide food hampers to the most vulnerable families such as orphans, child headed households and poverty inflicted families.
ZELA is willing to take part and support ZCDC on this initiative through spearheading radio programmes and documenting ZCDC’s work on COVID-19 preparedness.