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Catholic Charity Facilitates PPE Supplies in Zimbabwe amid Coronavirus Challenges

A Catholic Nun getting a COVID-19 inoculation at a medical center in Zimbabwe. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

Catholic charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has facilitated the provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs) to more than 1200 pastoral workers in Zimbabwe.

In a Wednesday, July 7 report, ACN officials say they have responded to the challenge that members of the Clergy, women and men Religious face in the Southern African country amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, and facilitated the provision of masks, face shields, gloves, protective suits, gumboots and disinfectants.

“Their challenge is to cover the enormous territory of the eight Dioceses in the country in which many of the pastoral workers often are in the frontline also serving as medical and social aid,” ACN leadership says in reference to pastoral agents in Zimbabwe.

Most of the pastoral agents, ACN officials further say, serving along the borders of Zimbabwe with neighboring countries.

“Due to its position, Zimbabwe is a gateway to Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique,” they say, and explain, “This is an issue, for example a Diocese of Chinhoyi spreads over a vast territory of 56,000 square kilometers, with a total of 142 pastoral workers.”

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The Catholic Diocese, officials of the Pontifical entity say, is vulnerable to infections coming from Chirundu, the primary border post to Zambia.

In the July 7 report, ACN leadership also notes that there is a lot of unlicensed movement of people across the border between Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique where a section of the pastoral agents are serving, most of them as frontline health workers at three hospitals and five clinics in the area.  

The Catholic charity also outlines remoteness in sections of the country as one of the challenges the pastoral agents experience.

In Chinhoyi, ACN officials say, there are only six urban Parishes out of the possible 21. The rest are reportedly rural Parishes and Missions.  

“Hospitals are also far away, which makes it difficult to transfer serious cases.  Severe infection issues occur due to the failure to separate COVID-19 cases from others,” notes ACN.

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Pastoral agents’ contact with people, according to the charity organization, has also been minimized, further complicating pastoral work in the Southern African country.

“Pastoral workers are not getting food so easily as before, because they cannot reach the parishioners, who had helped them in the past,” ACN officials say in the July 7 report.

Management of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe and by extension other African countries, according to leadership of the Catholic charity, has been made difficult by existence of other challenges among them different diseases.

“In many African countries, medical care is completely inadequate. Malaria, AIDS, cholera, and other diseases are very widespread. If a pandemic like COVID-19 is added to this mix, disaster is inevitable,” says the head of ACN Project department section for Zimbabwe, Ulrich Kny.

Mr. Kny adds, “Such a catastrophe was looming in some Southern African countries at the beginning of the year, when the second wave of the pandemic assumed increasingly devastating proportions and claimed more lives including Bishops, Priests, religious Sisters, Catechists and other lay church workers.”

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The ACN official explains that the Catholic charity is cognizant of the fact that COVID-19 affected economic activities in the country hence completely cutting off the help Dioceses were giving to pastoral agents.