Community Accountability Action Teams (CAATs) established by women working with Heal Zimbabwe in Zaka, Gutu and Bikita have intensified their fight against COVID-19 by referring affected community members for online psycho-emotional (tele-counseling) services to Heal Zimbabwe.
Heal Zimbabwe in partnership with the National Association of Social Workers Zimbabwe (NASWZ) is providing online psycho-emotional support services to persons infected by COVID-19 as well as distressed frontline workers. The organization has also empowered the CAATs to act as useful information hubs on COVID-19 and social cohesion. The recent spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Masvingo Province to 218 has resulted in local communities grappling with fear and anxiety on how best they can handle influxes of returnees using undesignated border entry points, suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. This has overwhelmed traditional social safety nets that grassroots communities rely on during pandemics, creating fissures of potential conflict. To help strengthen family and community social safety nets, CAATs have created Virtual Information Centres on which key Infection Prevention and Control measures, and COVID-19 survivor testimonies are regularly shared and discussed.
Added to this, the platforms also provide key information to community members on the front lines such as Community Health Care workers on how they can leverage on Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) for community based response to COVID 19. It is against this background that CAAT members have been referring affected families receive tele-counselling as a way of strengthening their resilience in preventing and responding to COVID 19 pandemic. Building on the concept of nhimbe and Zunde raMambo which mark the hallmark of Heal Zimbabwe programming, the CAATs have been emphasizing a collective approach in which diverse community members and duty bearers collaboratively fight myths, and stigma around the virus, and promote positive behavior change including wearing of face masks, and use of sanitisers at water points.“We have realized that COVID-19 is just a normal pandemic like any other, we have realized that the numbers of recoveries even around the world are encouraging, hence there is need to encourage local communities that together, regardless of our socio-economic and political differences, we can overcome this virus through a coordinated-collaborative approach to COVID-19 such as reporting returnees escaping mandatory testing and quarantining, wearing of face masks, sanitizing and observing social distancing”, said Rosemary Mubariri, a CAAT leader from Zaka.
Community members also bemoaned the negative impacts of COVID-19 on rural farmers. “COVID-19 has also become an economic war against the rural farmers, especially women. The current shortage of dipping chemicals for our livestock has opened profiteering avenues for some unscrupulous individuals who are overcharging vaccines for livestock at local business centres, taking advantage of the travel restrictions that the country has adopted,” added a female Lead Farmer from Gutu on the Virtual Information Centre.
The virtual information centres created by CAATs comprise of various stakeholders at the local level such as Village Development Committees (VIDCOs), Ward Development Committees (WADCOs), Councillors, Traditional leaders, School Development Committees (SDCs), Traditional leaders, Health committees and other various stakeholders. The information centers also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19 by bringing in specialised personnel such as Ministry of Health representatives and survivors of COVID-19 among others to educate communities on COVID 19.Virtual information centers are also platforms that facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.