HIV-positive Zimbabwean villagers living along the border with Zambia are reportedly risking life and limb crossing the crocodile-infested Zambezi River to collect life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) from Zambian clinics because they are closer.
Some of the villagers, especially in Kanyemba, said the nearest local health centers on the Zimbabwean side were located in Mbire district and Chitsungo, about 125km away.
“We cross to Zambia every fortnight to access ARVs even though we are not sure of the potency of the drugs we are being issued within a foreign land. We also risk lives crossing the Zambezi which is infested with crocodiles, but we have no option otherwise we die from the virus,” Titus Huruva of Kanyemba area who is on ARVs said.
Mashonaland Central Provincial Aids coordinator David Nyamurera confirmed the villagers’ plight in an interview with NewsDay last week saying the challenges started at the height of the country’s economic meltdown in 2008.
|Fast Facts about the Lower Zambezi:|
|Length of Lower Zambezi||650 kilometers|
|Annual Rainfall||900 to 1100 millimeters|
|Evaporation Rates||1600 to 2300 millimeters|
|Lower Zambezi Tributaries||Luia River, Leunha River, Shire River|
|Zambezi River Valley Population||Approx. 32 000 000|
“We are aware of the situation, but it is difficult now to stop the people from visiting Zambian clinics because we are offering different regimens from the one they are receiving in Zambia,” Nyamurera said.
“Plans are underway to dialogue with the Zambian authorities as well as the Mozambican authorities to harmonize things since we are also serving part of the Mozambican population in the Chikafa and Chidodo areas.”
Contacted for comment, Health and Child Welfare deputy minister Douglas Mombeshora said: “I wouldn’t know about that, but what I am aware of is that there is no district hospital in Mbire. At times because of the distances they must travel to the nearest local clinics. Villagers would rather cross over to the neighboring country because it will be nearer for them.
“That is the major problem we face — that of people having to travel long distances to the initiating sites. So those villagers next to the borders choose to just cross the river and get access. It is the same for us, we also treat those who come from Mozambique because our clinics will be nearer to them than to travel long distances.”
Date: 14 May 2013