Community Development Health

Celebrating COVID-19 response’s media unsung heroines in Zimbabwe

Anna Miti, chairman of Health Communicators Forum

By Catherine Murombedzi

The Zimbabwe Covid-19 response would be incomplete without mentioning the media, an integral part of the correct communication channel and the bridge for the information divide.

With myths and misconceptions rife, set to derail the Covid-19 response, the media rose to the occasion by dispelling infodemics. Misinformation became a pandemic that required accurate surgery. The media became a trusted source of news to dispel myths and misconceptions. In a survey by Pangea Zimbabwe, the healthcare workers were the first trusted source followed by the media. The media, therefore, complemented the correct dissemination of Covid-19 news.

Below, Spiked Online Media spotlights female media champions in the COVID-19 response:

Anna Miti, public health science journalist

Anna Miti, a health science journalist founded the Health Communicators Forum (HCF) at the peak of the pandemic in June 2020.

She was nominated Chairman by a network of health journalists. She activated virtual cafes through the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre, (HIFC). The science cafes were funded by Avac. Experts, among them Dr. Tinashe Gede, Dr. Nyaradzo Mgodhi, Dr. Portia Hunidzarira, Dr. Cissy Kityo from Uganda, among many others graced the digital forums in the interactive sessions.

Science was made easier, the writers were capacitated, and HIV, Covid-19, and community challenges were all discussed. Three health journalists, Muchaneta Chimuka, Michael Gwarisa, and  Catherine Murombedzi were asked to be Covid-19 Champions under the auspices of Pangea Zimbabwe.

“It was imperative that we get strong or become relegated during Covid-19. We had held science cafes for over 5 years but we were not an organised network. The Covid-19 challenge became an opportunity to rise to the occasion. With Covid-19 under management now, it is surely not going to be the last pandemic,” said the ever-smiling Miti.

With 14 health science journalists now holding a Diploma each in Public Health through the Harare Institute of Public Health, the quality of articles has improved.

Tendai Rupapa, a senior reporter with a decade of experience

Tendai Rupapa is well known as a court reporter, having been in the justice corridors since her internship days. The vivacious journalist did not limit her field, from 2017, she covered the First Lady’s diaries emerging versatile outside the courts.

Tendai Rupapa

She has been there to capture the events, be it in rural Muzarabani, the hot spots, where sex workers converge, the community projects in Plumtree, and the cooking competition in urban or rural settings. Her pen has captured the unreported communities.

“The First, Dr. Auxilia Mnangagwa’s energy is amazing, there are times we feel tired, however, I am surprised because she is the one on the ground working while mine is to write. Her love for people is unmatched,” said Rupapa about the First Lady.

Robin Muchetu, senior reporter, The Sunday News

The girl from the City of Kings and Queens is a cog in the HCF wheel. She is the Bulawayo chapter representative. She has attended all virtual forums and has travelled to Harare for the AGM and some physical meetings after the lifting of the travel ban.

Robin Muchetu

Writing for the Sunday News, the several times’ award-winning journalist has demystified Covid-19. She helped shape the nation’s response. Bulawayo was among the first dozen cases. With the media reporting Covid-19 as statistics, Muchetu got her pen to give the human face, the feelings, and the trauma of bereaved families.

She got the 2021 Health Journalist Award of the year from the National Aids Council.

The humble Muchetu dedicated her award to all who lost their loved ones.

“As a survivor of Covid-19, I am grateful to be alive. I am saddened by all who lost their loved ones. They did not get closure as the burials were detached. These families require counselling services. We have orphans, we need to take care of them. Covid-19 snatched their parents, like a thief in the night, lives were lost,” said Muchetu.

Abigirl Tembo,  Health Editor, ZBC News

Working for national television, her daily updates kept the nation glued to the screens in the safety of their homes. Was Tembo safe traversing the country giving health issues coverage? She was not. Her mentor and colleague at ZBC, Janet Munyaka had said good night after a fierce battle with Covid-19. Gone too soon, may Munyaka rest in peace.

Abigirl Tembo

ZBC was recording Covid-19 infections. However, being the national broadcaster, it could not close. Had it done so, it would be a news blackout, causing panic and pandemonium. Banks and shops closed for sanitisation for days after any employee tested positive. Tembo remained standing, hitting the ground running. One day, she too tested positive for Covid-19.

“To me, it was more fear than the illness that affected me. I thought of Munyaka, my children, and my mother. At that debilitating moment, my chest felt heavy. It is pure grace that I pulled through. You know stigma was high. I am grateful to be around, we now have managed to live with the virus,” said Tembo.

To say her forays into the tide informed the nation is an understatement. She literally became a household name in the latest news. Tembo is award-winning and her zeal for the academic ladder sees her getting cap after cap.

The road to wellness requires community-based champions, those living with the people. We have several heroines. However, a pick of a few will bring out the community-led initiatives.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende