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The 2024 Zimbabwe Community Trailblazers Awards put special consideration on health as highlighted by the theme “Promoting a healthy and mutually supportive community” since health and development are symbiotic.
These were the sentiments of Dr. Johannes Marisa in his address at the awards ceremony held at the majestic Harare International Conference Centre, the Rainbow Tourism Group’s flagship events giant that has hosted gatherings like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), among others.
Dr. Marisa noted that for long medical practitioners had been excluded from events like this, but Perfection Media took the initiative to include medical practitioners in the awards nomination processes.
“Today, we have a whole array of trailblazers who include teachers, economists, artists, doctors, nurses, engineers to mention just but a few.
“Medical practitioners showed their prudence, resilience, diligence, and amity, especially during the peak of the recent deadly COVID-19 pandemic, where at least 6,970 million people lost their lives globally. Zimbabwe defied all odds, witnessing around 5731 people succumb to the deadly virus since 31 December 2019 when the virus was first detected in Wuhan Province of China,” Dr. Marisa said
He extended his appreciation to the Government of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, and both public and private health practitioners for standing tall against the pandemic
By last Friday, the cholera outbreak had claimed at least 310 lives since its index cases in Chegutu on 12 February 2023. All key stakeholders in the fight against cholera were urged to continue with their collaborative efforts.
Patients were urged to observe proper hygiene. Councils were encouraged to strengthen water and sanitation infrastructure while the Government continued to play an oversight role.
The World Health Organization in 2007 came up with a model of Health Delivery system which has six pillars or building blocks. These pillars include adequate financing, health workforce, medicines, governance, and health information systems and service delivery.
Dr. Marisa said it is therefore prudent to increase health financing in a bid to curb the brain drain which is threatening the health sector as more than 5000 healthcare workers are said to have migrated to greener pastures in the past 24 months.
“It does not mean that those who are not part of us here did not excel in their areas but we cannot accommodate everyone at once. Tomorrow will be their day. As for the medical practitioners who are awarded today, we should at least appreciate that these practitioners worked hard in different medical disciplines which include laboratories, nursing homes, clinics and hospitals, pharmacy etc . It is not about the fanciness of health infrastructure some might have, but what the communities are benefiting which may be through health education, health promotion, corporate social responsibility, and philanthropic work to mention just but a few,” he added.
One of the cadres who have significantly contributed to the health sector in unique ways is Professor Jacob Mufunda (Current Dean at GZU Medical School).
In arriving at the decision to honour Prof Mufunda, the judges were particularly impressed by his trailblazing journey as a renowned professor of medicine and general medical practitioner to improve the health outcomes in Zimbabwe and beyond.
This includes his phenomenal rise from lecturer to Professor of Physiology and Dean of Medicine in 6 years. Under his tenure as the Dean, the inaugural Five Year Strategic Plan for The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) (1996-2000) leading to the establishment of the College of Health Sciences of the UZ was developed. He also supported the development of the current National Policy on Non-Communicable Diseases in Zimbabwe and another in Eritrea.
Prof Mufunda was appointed as the World Health Organization Technical Lead to establish a new Orotta School of Medicine and Dentistry in Eritrea and oversaw the graduation of the first cohort of doctors in this East African country. He was then recruited to found another new medical school at the University of Namibia as the founding Dean.
The World Health Organization recruited him to become the Country Director cum Country Representative in a diplomatic position in Lesotho and joined the global roster to lead public health interventions at the country level. He was able to guide countries in that capacity in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, in Mozambique and later Zambia where you led the first cholera vaccination campaign following the devastating outbreak there.
After this illustrious public health excursion, he decided to rekindle his academic interest by supporting the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine at Midlands State University before he was appointed the Founding Executive Dean of Simon Mazorodze School of Medical and Health Sciences at Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo where he pioneered the integration of conventional medicine. Over the past six years, he initiated the Chikuku Rural Hospital monthly outreach programme where he conducted social responsibility activities of giving back to the community where you were born and bred.
In this venture, he provided free consultation and medicines for the people from the hospital catchment and beyond at no direct cost to them. The social responsibility has attracted medical doctors from the area and the Chikuku Development Initiative was founded and supported by people from the area and the Diaspora to include other areas such as road development and borehole repair in the area in a sustainable future development approach
There are also the likes of Dr Nyasha Masuka, a renowned medical doctor who has dedicated the whole of his life to serving Zimbabwe. He is one of the two doctors remaining in his class of 1996 as the rest have left for greener pastures. He held important portfolios in both the public and private sectors.
We have the innovation guru, Dr Viven Solanki, a medical practitioner par excellence who is the centre of Zimbabwe Medical Tourism with his magnificent Borrowdale Trauma Centre. This is the reason high-profile people do not seek medical attention outside Zimbabwe because of the state-of-the-art healthcare facilities in Zimbabwe.
Dr Ingrid Landmann has gone out of her way in her endeavour to improve women’s health and she remains a heroine of medical excellence.
Dr Mike Joka has remained resilient in the last decade, rising from a mere small surgery to establishing some of the best healthcare facilities in Zimbabwe that trade as Corporate 24.
Sister Veronica Zimunhu, owner of Queen of Peace Hospital in Hatfield, is a nurse who rose to stardom when she established her private hospital at a time when it was taboo for nurses to do so. Today, she boasts of thousands of maternity deliveries, some mothers deliver at her hospital free of charge.
Laboratory scientists like Dr Henry Dandadzi of the Interpathy laboratories is a man who has worked tirelessly and was one of the first scientists to carry out COVID-19 tests in the country.
Westview Clinic has assisted many artists, and vulnerable members of society including the disabled, and orphans to access free medical care. The level of Corporate Social Responsibility is amazing.
Seasons Pharmaceuticals Company has excelled as it checks the health of the country by maintaining a stock of the important drugs that the country requires. We say thank you lots.
Dr Emmanuel Sithole, Dr Simango, Dr Innocent Gozho, Tinevimbo Matambanadzo, Stone River Funeral Services and the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe were honoured for the trailblazing works they continue to do.
The same is said of journalists and those who advance community and national health interests. The journalists have been at the forefront of disseminating information which is a catalyst for robust action.