… as caregiver gets quarantined, stigmatised
BIKITA – A coronavirus positive woman who was ordered into self-isolation six weeks ago says she is on the verge of starvation as all her food reserves have run-out.
Edith Chisirimunhu, a 26-year-old single mother of two, tested positive for coronavirus in May while quarantined at Masvingo Teachers’ College after being repatriated from Botswana weeks after the beginning of the national lockdown.
Being cared for by her 60-year-old mother, Perina Chinyoka, who takes care of several grandchildren too, Chisirimunhu says morale at the homestead has now hit rock bottom as they can hardly afford a single proper meal per day.
The family stays in Chirume Village, Ward 1, under Chief Mabika, an area which did not get much from the 2019-2010 farming season due to below normal rainfall.
“When I first came back from self-isolation, I received some support from neighbours and other villagers who were concerned about my welfare. Some would just prepare food at their homes and leave it at the periphery of our homestead for my mother to go ad collect. But now they are finding it difficult to keep doing that as they too are poor people with nothing much to spare,” Chisirimunhu told TellZim News in a phone interview.
“Health officials who monitor me instructed that I find somebody to take away my two children saying they were too young and could not be expected to keep safe. So some relatives took them away for over two weeks but they have now brought them back saying they can no longer continue caring for them for a prolonged period of time. We had thought I will be certified fully-recovered in few weeks’ time and take them back since I am asymptomatic,” she said.
At the homestead, she stays alone in her own separate house and is not allowed to mix with other members of the family including her minor children; one aged five and the other aged three.
Her mother Perina does much of the household chores including preparing food for her and the other dependent minors under her care.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care officials who frequently visit her to monitor progress in her battle with the virus, have now ordered her mother into self-quarantine meaning her movements are severely restricted.
“She is not to venture out to look for means to support our needs because they consider her a high-risk suspect. They only allow her to go to the garden and to fetch water at the borehole. I was retested on 17 June and my mother was also tested on that day, with her results coming back negative. We were tested again on 01 July and we are waiting for our results,” she said.
She also said another challenge was that villagers were now severely prejudicing against her family members due to the fear of the virus.
“The stigma is too much. They gave an order that my mother could go and fetch water but only by 4am when everybody else is still asleep but you find queues at the borehole as early as 4am so people run away from her. The same happens at the cooperative garden where my mother is supposed to get us some vegetables. The health officials say she must move around with some hand sanitizer but she can’t afford it,” said Chisirimunhu.
Masvingo Provincial Social Welfare Department head Stanislaus Sanyangowe said government had no specific aid programme for people in Chisirimunhu’s situation but advised aid organisations could help.
“It’s unfortunate that our office currently has no programme for such specific cases but we remain open to considering unique cases. Our office at Nyika growth point could record her issue so that it could be considered at policy level. We also urge leaders in her community to help get her name to such organisations like World Food Programme which are running relief operations in rural communities,” said Sanyangorwe.
Bikita RDC Ward 1 Councillor Teserai Makhado said he had received a report about the family and had informed Bikita South Member of Parliament (MP) Josiah Sithole.
“I have learnt about the difficult situation of that family and I engaged our MP who promised to find some help. I am currently trying to find other ways of getting some relief to them,” said Makhado.