World Health Day in the face of Covid-19

Sister Chiedza Mugari (not her real name) writhes in agony as she labours to breathe. She is sweating profusely as she lazily tries a cough. A rapid pulse and fluctuating temperatures have not helped matters as she remains confined to her bed.

Sisiter Mugari is sick. She has been working night duty at her clinic which has just been turned into an isolation centre following the outbreak of the menacing Covid-19 virus.

Fortunately, samples of specimen taken from her have proved that she is negative of the deadly coronavirus. Her family feared for the worst and her colleagues have developed cold feet to attend patients at the facility.

However, she will have to go back to the front after recovery, to the same work station she is now dreading. It is a calling she responded to and she remains duty-bound.

She is not alone in this predicament. There are millions of nurses around the globe facing the same fate.

Tuesday, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Health Day 2020 which is running under the theme “Support Nurses and Midwives: To generate attention towards their contributions during the Covid-19 outbreak”.

Fittingly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife to mark the bicentenary of the birth and founder of modern-day nursing, Florence Nightingale, and to recognise the critical contribution both professions make to global health.

Nightingale, who was born on May 12 1820 and died on August 13 1910, is one of the heroes of the Crimean War where she trained and managed nurses to care for wounded soldiers. She became famous as “The Lady with the Lamb” as she made rounds during the night to care for the wounded soldiers.

Zimbabwe, like most of the countries around the globe, is reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 virus which has affected more than a million people globally with around 55 000 deaths.

Today, like Nightingale before them, nurses and midwives are on the front, caring for the sick and infected.

Nurses and midwives remain the backbone of the response as they are deployed at the deep end as first responders to the pandemic yet they remain the unsung heroes.

Nurses and midwives have been risking their own health and welfare as they continue to impart information and caring for the sick worldwide, albeit with minimal protective clothing and a battered welfare.

There has been growing consternation among the health professionals around the world following the deaths of over 60 Italian doctors who all succumbed to Covid-19.

In response, some doctors have downed their tools citing poor or no personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE’s). Haiti is one of the hard-hit countries where state-run hospitals have been running without doctors, save for nurses and midwives.

In Zimbabwe, nurses have remained resolute in their duties, helping a nation that has been caught flat-footed both in preparation and capacity to handle the pandemic.

To their credit, the country has thus far recorded only two deaths and 11 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Midwives are also in the mix big time. Their duties do not only become limited to the delivery of babies. Their life-saving skills go beyond that as they are also educating, empowering and managing pregnant women to have healthy lives.

Regardless of the Covid-19 virus, midwives are still in the trenches attending to booking mothers in the ante-natal care units as well as post-natal care units. They are spreading the message about social distancing and the need to keep newly born babies free from coronavirus given their susceptible immunity.

Nurses have been also working outside hospitals. In the communities, and public places trying to educate people on the dangers of the coronavirus.

It is critical to note that nurses and midwives have not been spared by Covid-19 with The Guardian newspaper in England reporting that two nurses died last week after being infected by the virus.

Tracy Brennan, a healthcare assistant, had to quit her job in protest after she was denied the right to wear her surgical mask in UK.

The largest nurse union in the USA has since urged employers and their Government to increase safety measures to protect nurses from the ever increasing Covi -19 pandemic.

“This is a national emergency and far too many hospitals are still failing to ensure that our caregivers, who are placing their own safety at grave risk, have the protection they need to stay at the bedside for their patients,” National Nurses Union executive director Bonnie Castillo told international media.

As the country remains under the yoke of the sanctions, more needs to be done to equip health practitioners to be safe such that they remain focused on saving lives and serving the nation.

The country must, at least, thrive to meet the Abuja Declaration of 2009 which entails that African Governments put at least 15 percent of their national budget towards health.

Nurses and midwives remain key to global health, thus their welfare remains of paramount importance.

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