Charles Mushinga, Deputy Editor
The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society was a true helper for the vulnerable in 2020.
Were it not for the society, thousands would have been left homeless, starved or dead in 2020.
The biggest challenge the society dealt with was Covid-19.
The pandemic shook even major economies like the United States of America and Italy. Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, was not ready to deal with the challenge.
To date, the pandemic still haunts the world, and Zimbabwe has never been this hard-hit since the virus broke with over a thousand new cases recorded in 24 hours and 34 deaths in the same period in latest statistics.
Zimbabwe recorded her first case end of March 2020 and a 21-day national lockdown was immediately pronounced.
The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society promptly got to work with April interventions to assist humanity.
During the 21 day national lockdown, humanitarian interventions under social protection programmes were allowed to continue so as to assist households to sustain their livelihoods.
Zimbabwe Red Cross food distributions in vulnerable communities were carried out in Binga, Chipinge, Makonde, Mwenezi, Muzarabani, Siakobvu and Kwekwe Rural Districts but under special arrangements which included that communities observe congregate limit of not more than 50 people per point, maintenance of social distancing and handwashing.
“Our staff and volunteers have been capacitated with personal protective equipment and the food distributions were closely supervised by Ministry of Health and Child Care officials,” said ZRCS on their social media pages.
COVID-19 risk communication, awareness programmes through posters and banners with messages were being done by trained community based volunteers and village health workers at the food distribution points.
True to their motto, “Saving lives, Alleviating human suffering,” the ZRCS also worked with their Humanitarian Ambassador, Sungura musician Alick Macheso, to aid public education efforts around Covid-19.
Macheso’s influence was used throughout the year and his collaboration with the ZRCS helped many people outside the cities learn about the Covid-19 Dos and Don’ts.
The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society also availed Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to front line staff and other essential service providers throughout 2020 pushing hashtags #stayhome, #staysafe, #washhands and observe social distancing to their followers.
Another huge intervention by the ZRCS was how they linked corporates and convinced them to help the needy and to sponsor valuable programmes in the face of poverty and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Through ZRCS, for example, Standard Chartered Zimbabwe donated 14 000 face masks towards Covid-19 response efforts in April 2020. These were distributed to Red Cross field and clinic staff as well as other front-line and government staff.
In the same light, Coca-cola Foundation donated US$100 000 to the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society in support of ongoing Covid-19 response efforts.
Like ZRCS said on receiving that donation, “Working together we will make a difference and we are grateful for such humanitarian collaboration.”
In May 2020, the ZRCS discovered that many migrants had returned to Zimbabwe from South Africa and were staying at quarantine centers in line with health regulations to prevent the spread of Covid-19. With support from ICRC, the ZRCS started offering phone calls at these centers to help keep these people in touch with their families through their hashtag #Brotherskeeper.
In July, the Chinese Red Cross, through Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe handed over five ventilators that were distributed to health institutions to combat Covid-19.
That association with corporates also saw them spread the Covid-19 message through billboards in Harare and Bulawayo sponsored by Coca-Cola.
They also received a ZWL$1 508 000 donation from Nestle Zimbabwe, a trusted partner of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS) movement, for the Covid-19 cause.
The ZRCS also worked with individuals throughout the course of the year. In September for example, they received a donation of 100 x 10kg mealie meal, 100 packs of soya mince from former Board member Mr Michael Masimbarasi.
The donation targeted households headed by the elderly and the disabled, child headed families and those with chronically ill members. A total 90 households benefited 10kg mealie meal with two old people’s homes getting 50kg mealie meal and five packets of soya mince each.
The District Development Coordinator’s office, Department of Social Welfare add Ministry of Health supported the distribution with strict adherence to Covid-19 regulations.
The ZRCS Provincial head Mr Bhegedhe took the occasion to emphasise Covid-19 awareness to members of the community.
In responding to 2019/2020 El Nino induced drought, the Zimbabwe Red Cross with support from British Red Cross, in November 2020, supported 4000 households (20 000 people) across Chipinge and Mwenezi District with value vouchers worth an average of US$62.00. With this support, targeted people managed to purchase basic food and non-food items in their local trading outlets.
In the same month, to foster community resilience and disaster risk reduction the ZRCS handed over a footbridge across Ngamela river, a notorious barrier to learning during rainy season for pupils in the area.
They partnered European Commission, EU-Echo and Suomen Punainen Risti Finnish Red Cross in the project.
The bridge allowed hundreds of pupils and thousands of members of the community to access either side of the river. Many students slept on the wrong side of the river on several occasions after failing to cross on their way home from school.
The ZRCS, with support from the German government and Norvatis through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in December 2020, supported Victoria Chitepo General Hospital in Mutare with Covid-19 related PPEs in the form of 100 pairs special gloves, 16 thermometers, 4620 N95 masks, 468 sanitisers bottles, 5000 surgical masks, 4000 examination gloves and 170 pairs gumboots.
Acting Provincial Manager Mr Munyadadzi Chikukwa gave a detailed account of the Red Cross response to Covid-19 since the outbreak while government officials thanked the Red Cross for its efforts and called for more such support seeing the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
Through the ZRCS, there were similar donations to Mpilo General Hospital and Tsholotsho in Matebeleland while other homes and a clinic in Harare also benefited.
It was a year in which the humanitarian organisation and it’s partners proved that the welfare of vulnerable Zimbabweans is the core of their business.
With 2021 proving to be an even tougher year with the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, Zimbabwe needs ZRCS even more.