A visit to Karanda with Jacob Ngarivhume
24 October 2020
By Muridzo F
Perched right deep into Mashonaland Central is Karanda Mission Hospital. The hospital has become an oasis of hope for a nation whose health delivery system is on its knees.
People from every corner of the country make the long trip to Karanda seeking medical attention. In a nation with a collapsing economy and rising poverty, this is no mean fit.
Jacob Ngarivhume, Convener of the 31 July Protests, paid the hospital a visit to see the agony, pain and hardships patients go through in their search for medical assistance.
We left Harare, just after lunch, with goodies prepared by his wife Nyasha Ngarivhume. These were for patients we would meet at Karanda. The weather, a typical summer one, was hot and windy.
After taking a breather in Bindura, we headed north. The state of the toll gate before Madziva aptly sums up the state of our nation. Hastily erected years ago, it still remains just a shed. I wonder what happens when it rains? Who will stand in the rain to swipe toll fees?
The last eight kilometres from Karanda turn off to the hospital proved difficult to navigate. We passed broken down vehicles along this stretch. Such an important hospital deserve to be served with a better road.
Finally, we reached the hospital just as the sun was disappearing over the western horizon. The scene that met us was pathetic and unimaginable. It resembled a refugee camp, somewhere in South Sudan or Syria.
It was now windy, dusty and very cold. Hundreds of people were scattered everywhere. Those who could afford a meal were busy lighting fires to prepare supper. Some were just warming themselves around the fires. The majority with nothing to eat were preparing plastics, sacks and blankets to sleep for the night, silently praying that it will not rain during the night.
Some people had brought their tents but the majority braced for another cold night in the open. Besieged by hunger and a terrible weather, the night will be very long for them.
The arrival of Ngarivhume caused quite a stir. Many believed an official had come to hear their plight and were quick to share their ordeal. They wanted someone who could at least afford them an ear to listen to their horrowing experiences.
They came from all over the country, Gokwe, Mutare, Bulawayo and Murehwa. Some were yet to be attended to while others were waiting for checkups. They had no money to go back and return for review. So they had to stay put. It was really painful listening to their stories.
One man from Murehwa said, “I sold three of my cattle to raise money to bring my father here from Murehwa. But why is the government not developing our hospital there? It is now two weeks and l have been sleeping under this tree as if our country is at war. Does the minister even know the situation we are facing here?”
As we moved from one fireplace to another, the story was the same. Ngarivhume would sit down to listen to each particular case. We met an elderly man who was yet to see a doctor lying in the dust and visibly in pain. He demanded that a shed be built so that people yet to be admitted can have somewhere safe to sleep.
Some families had brought their children as they had no-one to look after them at home. With no toilets outside the hospital, people were using the bush system which on its on present a serious health time bomb.
A few desperate cases were selected and given some food hampers from Mrs Ngarivhume. You could feel their relief and joy as they ate.
After over five hours of interaction with them, it was time to go. In the distant horizon, flashes of lightning could be seen. One last look over the now quiet “refugee camp” my heart melted away. God do not send rains tonight! l prayed.
Back in our car, no-one could talk. Everyone was in deep thought. A quick glance at Ngarivhume, l realised the man was close to tears. This encounter had touched his very nerves!
When he had gathered up himself, he said “Our country is in trouble. Corruption has destroyed every sector while the leadership is hiding behind sanctions. This is pathetic and regrettable”