As Zimbabwe celebrated the dawn of a New Year on Wednesday, concerns about a number of socio-economic issues inherited from last year and even way back, still linger.
Some of the critical issues that give citizens sleepless nights include cash and fuel shortages, the much-talked about steep school fees increases, shortage of hard cash in banks, wilting crops due to lack of rains and dying livestock as pastures and drinking water depletes.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union president, Mr Abdul Nyathi, expressed concern that the crop and livestock situation was dire.
He said if the country did not receive significant rains within a few days, crops in the southern parts of the country, especially Matabeleland and Masvingo could be a write off by next week.
“We are worried with the situation,” Mr Nyathi said. “It seems as if rains have never come. The temperatures are so high, up to around 40 degrees Celsius. The grass is getting to permanent wilting.”
Mr Nyathi said livestock farmers, especially in the southern region were having challenges feeding their livestock.
“Crops, both small grains and maize, are wilting and we are afraid they will be a complete write off by next week if we do not get rains,” he said.
Mr Nyathi said this year the country could experience the worst drought.
During previous droughts, Zimbabwe could pull through to the second half of the rainy season, which is not the case with the 2019/20 season.
The majority of farmers never planted and those few who planted and do not have irrigation facilities are also worried.
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union executive director, Mr Edward Dune said the farming season was a complete disaster.
“Drought has ravaged crop production,” he said. “We never expected this development, very little had been done in terms of mitigatory measures.
“Our economic status has not been favouring developmental efforts to promote irrigation and other climate proof arrangements
“Permanent water sources need to be developed country wide in the medium to long term, while interventions in small grains and horticulture projects need to be expedited.”
On livestock, Mr Dune said there was need for the animals to be sustained in terms of pests and diseases, especially tick related infestations.
“Permanent water supply is also threatened and will require tightening if the drought trend continues,” he said.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya said cash will continue to be availed on “a gradual basis” and by end of the second-quarter of the year, depositors are expected to get their money on demand.
“People should be able to go to the banks to withdraw the cash that they need,” he said. “That way, you are also improving confidence in the sector and it also helps people wanting to bank their money because they know they will get it back when they want it.
“The limitation (for increasing cash) is that the money needs to be printed and the printing comes at a cost. It’s not done for free, we also need foreign currency to print money so we have to do it gradually otherwise it ends up being costly.”
In terms of fuel shortages, the situation remains delicate although long queues had disappeared in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD), with many service stations having supplies in the last few days.
But the queues seemed to be creeping back by the end of the week, especially for petrol which was in short supply, while diesel was readily available.
Government said the fuel supply situation should remain stable until the end of the first quarter, as lasting solutions are sought.
Most filling stations didn’t have petrol yesterday and were selling diesel only, with petrol deliveries expected from today.
In terms of the doctors’ strike, Progressive Doctors Association of Zimbabwe (PDAZ) president Dr Benson Dandira said although almost 80 percent of junior doctors had returned, normalcy in service delivery was yet to return because of absence of the other levels of doctors, that is the middle and senior doctors.
“Healthcare is a system,” he said. “Junior doctors cannot operate on their own without their seniors. For the system to return to normalcy, we need all doctors at work.”
Dr Dandira said junior doctors worked under senior doctors from whom they get instructions on patient management.
Additionally, the casualty department, which is the first port of call for patients, is manned by middle level doctors, known as casualty officers.
Screening, also known as triaging of cases to determine the unit from which a patient would receive care, is also done by the casualty officers.
Dr Dandira said on their own, junior doctors can also not admit a patient into wards.
Most middle level doctors are still withdrawing their labour, while most senior doctors are only attending to emergency cases.
“We continue appealing to our seniors to return to work so that normalcy returns in public health institutions, but at the moment junior doctors who have returned are working under supervision of those middle and senior doctors who have always been at work,” said Dr Dandira.
“They are also working with the senior doctors during emergency cases.”
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) acting secretary-general Dr Tawanda Zvakada said no meaningful service delivery will be offered in public health institutions without all doctors at work.
“We work as a system, hence if the system is incomplete, no meaningful impact will be made by those that have so far returned to work,” he said.
Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) president Dr Shingai Nyaguse said while some doctors, including seniors were at work, nothing had been done to capacitate the institutions.
“Harare Central Hospital maternity still has one functional theatre with its high volumes of patients,” she said. “Parirenyatwa Hospital can only fully equip two out of 12 theatres. We will not talk about the wards. Nursing staff is still inadequate and being worsened by the flexible working hours.”
Dr Nyaguse said all doctors were still committed to returning to work, but earning a fair wage and in a good working environment.
“We thought by now the Ministry would have called for an all-stakeholders meeting, including doctors, so that we can map a way forward,” she said.
“A piece meal approach will not work.”
Although service provision is yet to normalise at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Harare Central Hospital, Chitungwiza Central Hospital is fully functional.
In addition, Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospitals are on course to normalisation. – Herald