‘Working Unanimously Key to Fighting Covid-19’- Organisations

By Joyce Mukucha
HARARE – A plethora of organisations have joined hands agreeing that a multi-sectoral approach was vital to improve the uptake of Covid-19 vaccination, accessibility and response as well as fighting hesitancy and restistance.
This came out during a media breakfast meeting organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Zimbabwe in Harare last week.
Representatives of different organisations underscored that it was of paramount important to work collectively in terms advocacy, communication of resource mobilisation to improve accessibility of Covid-19 vaccine and vaccination programmes.
The AHF HIV County Programs Manager, Dr Enerst Chikwati applauded the government of Zimbabwe for being proactive to the Covid-19 response though he highlighted there was still a huge gap which need to be closed pointing out that many are still hesitant and afraid to get vaccinated.
“I commend the government for it has been working tirelessly to improve the access of vaccines. The vaccines are procured in the west and most African countries are struggling to access them but the Zimbabwean government has been proactive and it is managing to procure the vaccine in advance to ensure that citizens are protected.
“However, a lot still need to be done to ensure that the uptake of vaccines is increased because there is still the issue of hesitancy and resistance amongst the people. There is need for clear guidance for example for people living with disabilities, pregnant women and youths among other groups and there is also need for distribution of correct information to make sure that people don’t get misinformed with false news on social media,” he said.
Articulating on People Living with HIV(PLHIV) and communities myths and misconceptions on vaccination, Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) Programs Officer, Clarence Mademutsa said there was need to strengthen efforts in as much as demistifying myths around Covid-19 vaccination is concerned.
He said it was imperative to educate targeted population with knowledge and also to assess the level of hesitancy.
“It is important for village health workers and community cadres to continuously assess what the community is saying and to understand each community’s fears.
“We have a platform called Kutabila where we collect data or issues coming from the community and key issues identified through the platform, 5198 were placed with Kutabila call centre between January and June 2021.
” We received misconceptions and myths from PLHIV with others highlighting that Covid-19 reduce effectiveness on ART,cause bareness or affects productivity capacity, cause deaths within 2 or 5 years and increase the risk of death among people with underlying health conditions including PLHIV among other misconceptions.
“There is need for concerted effort to ensure that all these issues are addressed. If we join hands we can be able to foster solutions together for the benefit of people in different communities and the nation at large,” Mademutsa said.
He also indicated the importance of identifying those who are vulnerable to access the vaccine for example young people, pregnant women and people with disabilities and make necessary steps to cater for them.
In Chiredzi, he said ZNNP+ through its programme figured out that for one to get to the vaccination facility they have to walk long distances as he stressed the need for government, organisations and civil society organisations to take action and ensure that people access those facilities easily.
He added that,” It is important for Government and civil society organisations to monitor procurement process so that we will be able to update our communities and constituencies about availability of vaccines.”
Health and Promotion Officer with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Confidence Ushe Makota said the ministry was working through a pillar on risk communication and community engagement in terms of Covid-19 response and urged organisations to continue working together to yield positive results in as much as fighting the pandemic is concerned.
“In that pillar we would like to strengthen our community mobilisation, advocacy and communication with communities, so we just call upon all organisations who are working with communities to work with us and make sure we produce results especially in improving accessibility of the Covid-19 vaccines.”
The representatives from youth-oriented organisations who participated stressed that it was significant for programmes organisers to bear young people in mind when planning Covid-19 discussions explaining that youths become more comfortable to air out their concerns when they are gathered with their age-mates whom they feel cannot judge them.
Rounding up the meeting, National AIDS Council Director Communications, Mrs Madeline Dube urged journalists to continue playing a vital role of educating and informing the public with credible Covid-19 news.
She said there was need for creativity when crafting Covid-19 articles as she emphasised that stories on Covid-19 topic need to be crafted in a way that makes people want to read more.

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