The death of a young journalist from coronavirus is blamed on Zimbabwe’s weak health system

A health worker wears a protective suit during a demonstration of preparations for any potential coronavirus cases at a hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, Mar. 5, 2020.
A health worker wears a protective suit during a demonstration of preparations for any potential coronavirus cases at a hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, Mar. 5, 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
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Zimbabwe is mourning the death of a young star TV journalist Zororo Makamba soon after he tested positive for the  Covid-19 virus in Harare on Mar. 23.

Makamba, who was just 30, is the son of James Makamba, a prominent businessman and senior member of Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu-PF.  Zororo Makamba is believed to have contracted the virus following a visit to New York early this month, where he came back with “a slight flu and a cold”. New York has been identified in the last week as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States with nearly than 26,000 cases and over 200 deaths.

The southern African nation has only confirmed three Covid-19 cases to date, according to the health ministry (Tuesday, Mar. 24). Its neighbor South Africa has had over 700 confirmed cases but yet to record a casualty.

In a statement to Zimbabwe’s Daily News, Makamba’s family blamed poor health facilities for their brother’s death. “His doctor (Zororo’s general medical practitioner) made it clear earlier on that he had to be on a ventilator because he could not breathe. However, when we got at Wilkins Hospital there was no ventilator, no medication and even the oxygen would run out and they had to get it from the City of Harare.”

Makamba’s family says they asked the health minister Obadiah Moyo for Zororo to be taken to a private hospital where he could access advanced health equipment but Moyo insisted he gets treatment at Wilkins Hospital, the only isolation center in Zimbabwe serving its population of over 16 million people.

Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights chairperson Fortune Nyamande told Quartz Africa that there is need for at least a dedicated hospital, with state of the art isolation facilities in each province in Zimbabwe.

“Furthermore, we restate the need for medical equipment and intensive care facilities in all centers including Wilkins Hospital. The current state of preparedness leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the government is expecting the arrival of the consignment of 20,000 laboratory diagnostic test kits; 100,000 medical face masks and 1,000 protective suits and face shields on Tuesday (Mar. 24) which is part of  donation by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma through Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation’s donation to Africa.

The Zimbabwean government has also closed all borders except for returning citizens and cargo in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus. Public gatherings have been reduced to 50 people while beer halls and nightclubs have been closed.

The coronavirus outbreak couldn’t have come at worst time for Zimbabwe’s citizens and its government which is going through one of its worst economic upheavals with hyperinflation, power cuts and food shortages. While many Sub Saharan African countries will struggle with weak health systems, Zimbabwe is feared to be among the worst hit.

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