Zims seek health care in Mozambique

via Zims seek health care in Mozambique – The Zimbabwean 22 October by Marcus Tawona

Zimbabweans today find themselves in the embarrassing situation of having to seek medical assistance from a country many used to look down upon as not recovered from the ravages of a three decade civil war.

Zimbabwe’s health sector, which used to be the envy of many in Africa and indeed the entire world, has become a shadow of its former self. Many health centres now operate with obsolete equipment and skeleton staff due to a mass exodus of qualified personnel.

Even top government officials have lost confidence in local health institutions as evidenced by their frequent visits abroad for medical attention.

Zanu (PF) officials such as axed Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa have often been flown out of the country for medical attention. According to Zimbabwe’s Bill of Rights (1) every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services.

(2) Every person living with a chronic illness has the right to have access to basic health-care services for the illness.
(3) No person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health-care institution.
(4) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights set out in this section.
But the situation on the ground is totally opposite.

The high cost of accessing treatment in government institutions has forced  many to cross borders into neighbouring countries such as Mozambique in search of medical services. Most residents of Mutare and surrounding areas such as Burma Valley and Chigodora now opt to use Mozambican health services.

No dental services
Mutare Provincial hospital which serves as a referral centre for Manicaland province has been for a long time operating without a dental/oral clinic, leaving the poor at the mercy of private dental clinics, which charge as much as $30 to extract a single tooth.

But one needs just $7 for transport, drugs and services at Chimoio from Mutare. Grace Kaseke, 32, said she was forced to go to Chimoio Provincial Hospital after she failed to get treatment at Mutare provincial hospital.

“I can`t afford $30. I am not employed and government should save us from this exploitation,” said Kaseke as she waited her turn at Chimoio government hospital. It cost less than $2 for a tooth extraction there. Kaseke said it was better to cross the border because Mozambican hospitals provided all the necessary drugs required after the surgery for free.

Bradshaw Makumbe, 69, said he was forced to cross the border after his son suffered a toothache for two weeks. “I was forced into Mozambique because the money which was being charged by private doctors was too exorbitant. My son suffered and we could not raise the $75 the private practitioners were demanding. I went to Mutare Provincial hospital twice and I was told the unit was not working,” said Makumbe.

He added that government should prioritise the health sector because it was critical to the nation. “We are poor and vulnerable to the private clinics. Something has to be done by the government to bring glamour back to our health delivery system which has collapsed to unprecedented levels,” said Makumbe, a retrenched worker at Mutare Board and Paper Mills.

No bleach
Debra Magwada, 34, said she received assistance at Old Mutare Hospital, a United Methodist related institution but said the service was poor as the equipment was obsolete.

“I went to Old Mutare and paid $20 but they did not have bleach to sterilise the equipment. I had to bring my own bleach to the hospital but the service was atrocious to say the least. They did a shoddy job and I told my friend who later referred me to Chimoio Hospital and the service was better as compared to Zimbabwe,” said Magwada.

An official at Old Mutare Hospital who declined to be named said the institution was overwhelmed by people  needing dental services, but the equipment was obsolete.

A visit to Chimoio Provincial Hospital exposed the rot in Zimbabwe`s health delivery system. A number of Zimbabweans were queuing to be attended by various specialists. Most of the patients were speaking the Manyika dialect from Manicaland province.

Those interviewed said they would visit Mozambican health institutions regularly because they were affordable and drugs were readily available. “I came here to see a dentist because the services are much cheaper than in our country. Our health delivery system which used to be the best on the entire continent is on its knees.

They cannot even give pain killers such as paracetamol. It’s useless to visit our hospitals because you have to part with every little cent that you have for a service,” said Luthando Mhlanga, 27, from Chipinge.

An official at the Chimoio hospital, who only identified himself as Joakino, confirmed that their hospital was being overwhelmed by Zimbabweans. He said on average they treat 50-70 Zimbabweans weekly for various ailments ranging from toothache to stomach-related problems. “We are managing to cope with the situation although the situation is putting pressure on our staff and infrastructure. This shows that all is not well in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mozambican health personnel said they were often moved by pity to offer medical care to Zimbabweans who usually did not have any form of identification after skipping the border for medical help.

Pedro Mustafa, 45, a dentist also confirmed that many Zimbabweans were flooding their dental section on a daily basis. He paid tribute to his government for investing heavily in the medical facilities to cater for the needs of its people.

“Our dental section is heavily equipped as you can see. We have state of the art equipment and qualified personnel to man our dental clinics. Zimbabwe should also do the same to reduce pressure on our facilities.

Difficult times
“All the same, Zimbabwe helped us during our 27 year civil war between government and Renamo so we are grateful for the support they rendered to us and as brothers we stand in solidarity with them in difficult times,” said Mustafa.

Investigations conducted by this reporter indicated that most Zimbabweans who cross into Mozambique for such medical service do not have proper documentation. Some have been subjected to harsh treatment by Mozambican police who demand bribes from those caught without proper documentation.

“We have a situation where no one cares for the poor. We cannot have old people crossing borders through undesignated points to seek for medical attention.  Tooth extraction is the simplest procedure a provincial hospital carries out. There is no political will on the part of those who are in power to bring the situation to normalcy,” said Ben Mudzana, a Zimbabwean medical consultant based in Muxungue, Sofala Province.

The Provincial Medical Director, Dr Patron Mafaune, could not be reached for comment as she was reportedly out of office every time this reporter called.


  • comment-avatar
    Mugarbage 7 years ago

    Next time your tooth aches, think back why you voted ZANU.
    Go to your local witchdoctor and enjoy your basic indigenous tooth extraction.

  • comment-avatar
    Grabmore 7 years ago

    Move to Mozambique for Jobs, heathcare and food Very sad but after 35 years that is the legacy of Zanu PF. It also shows how powerful foreign direct investment can work in such a short space of time. Anyway at least in Zimbabwe there are diamonds.

    • comment-avatar
      Doris 7 years ago

      There might be diamonds but does this country benefit from them?

  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 7 years ago

    Muzenda must have been a “prophet” – even a donkey can do better in our current circumstances! A baboon would do miracles!!