Vaccinating The Rural Population In Matabeleland Against COVID-19

With the rise of the Omicron variant, DanChurchAid (DCA) together with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, is making sure that no-one is left behind in the fight against COVID-19, even in the remotest parts of Zimbabwe.

At the height of the pandemic, rural communities, where information dissemination was not as efficient as in the metropolis, were immediately at a disadvantage. Mobile network penetration in Zimbabwe stands at 33.4%. Most people today receive and consume information on a mobile device, but only 8.7% of Zimbabweans, most of whom are in urban areas, use social media as their reliable and trusted source of information

The challenge in the dissemination of accurate information in modern society became apparent.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) has experienced significant challenges reaching the hard-to-reach areas and the population at risk rural population with COVID-19 information and vaccinations, resulting in only 39% of the population having received both doses of the vaccine by October 2021 (Source, MoHCC).

Vaccinating The Rural Population In Matabeleland Against COVID-19DanChurchAid together with CARE and Plan International came together to conceptualise an approach to complement government efforts to increase the vaccination drive from 3 million vaccinated, towards herd immunity of 60%. The goal being to support demand creation and uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations in hard to reach and high-risk populations in Zimbabwe through awareness of COVID-19, fight mis-information, thus bring the rural majority into the fight against the pandemic. In Zimbabwe 68% of the population is in rural areas.

The partners spilt the geographical cake between them, with DCA taking on Matabeleland South – the country’s least populous province with a population of 683,893 (2012 census), in Beitbridge, Gwanda and Plumtree.

Despite its population size, the province is an important one, as it connects Zimbabwe to Botswana and South Africa-providing an important corridor for migrant movement, a key factor in the global spread of the pandemic. The districts are characterized by artisanal miners and cross border activities, making them prone to COVID-19.

According to the MoHCC database, in October, the province had recorded 8,969 COVID-19 cases, 8,747 recoveries and 183 deaths.

Gwanda district recorded 1,592 cases. Here the MoHCC has a target of 84,044 people to be vaccinated. Of those 24,863 have received both doses of the vaccine, and 33,465 had received one dose making up 40% of the target population being vaccinated.

Beitbridge district has a target population of 87,511 to be vaccinated, 15,892 have received both doses and 24,922 have received one dose, being 28% of the target.

Mangwe district has a target of 43,116 to be vaccinated, 20,666 has received both doses, and 24,285 has only received one dose, that is 56.3 % coverage.

To help achieve these targets by December 2021, DanChurchAid has facilitated the training of 118 Volunteer Health Promoters, and these are responsible for conducting door-to-door COVID-19 awareness campaigns ,131 traditional and religious leaders to disseminate accurate information in the three districts.

This, in addition to facilitating the training of MoHCC staff on COVID-19 and implementing risk communications and community engagement (RCCE) in the three major languages using van messaging. The national broadcaster has no reach into the three districts making it impossible for radio and television messaging to be utilised to disseminate information.

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