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Chabadza shelter

CHIRUMHANZU, (ZIMBABWE) – With a sprightly spring in their steps, Jackson Munatsi, 74, and fellow villager Richard Denhere, 74, enter the freshly painted room.  Munatsi gestures his counterpart to take a seat on the narrow hospital bed.  The elderly duo is not suffering from any ailment and their faces light up as they narrate how a Zimbabwean tradition has brought joy to their lives.

We are seated in the recently completed waiting mothers’ shelter at Denhere Clinic in Chirumhanzu communal area, some 250 km south of the capital, Harare.  Designed to cater for 12 pregnant women awaiting delivery, the shelter has been furnished with 12 beds and will open its doors when lockers and cupboards for storing the patients’ personal belongings are delivered.

“Chabadza found us working on rebuilding the shelter whose structure had totally collapsed,” says Munatsi who is chairperson of the Health Centre Committee.

Zimbabwean tradition dictates that farmers going to the field should take extra hoes (mapadza).  Neighbours and friends passing the field would then take the spare hoes and lend a helping hand to get the work done faster.  This practice is known as chabadza.

In this communal spirit, the United Methodist Church in Norway and Zimbabwe teamed up to form the Chabadza Community Development Program.  There are currently five projects being undertaken in the Mutasa-Nyanga and Masvingo districts of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.

Juliet Marara, secretary of the Chabadza committee at Denhere clinic says the shelter was built in 1982 by the Government and was never completed.  “The Health Centre Committee was established to maintain structures at the clinic and every household in the area served by the clinic was levied USD $0,50 per month to contribute towards maintenance and refurbishment.”

Funds raised by the Health Centre Committee were used to resuscitate the incomplete building and it is while the community was struggling with this work that Chabadza stepped in: “The community had given the local UMC pastor, Taurai Kandori, free accommodation at Denhere School and when saw the villagers’ development efforts he introduced Chabadza to us,” she says.

For Marara and her peers of child-bearing age, the shelter is a blessing as they no longer have to travel 20km to the nearest health centre with a waiting mothers’ facility.  “Women were being referred to a hospital about 20km away yet we have a trained midwife at our clinic.  This development enables expectant mothers who live far from the clinic to come and stay here while awaiting delivery thereby ensuring they are within reach of professional medical attention at the onset of labour, or should any complications arise.”

UMC provided material for roofing, painting, lockers, 12 beds and mattresses for the expectant mothers’ facility and adjacent kitchen with a total value USD $7 000.  The cooking areas in the kitchen needed to be rebuilt at elbow level where pregnant women could comfortably cook without straining themselves.  The church provided iron bars for the stoves and a security screen.

Denhere, the village headman, was overjoyed by the assistance rendered by the church: “Chabadza found us hard at work, but we could not afford to buy some of the materials required to complete this shelter and kitchen.  UMC through Chabadza bought roofing material, paints and furnished the shelter which is now ready for use.”

The Chirumhanzu community received the materials on September 18 and local labourers were used to complete the construction.  Marara says they floated a tender after which they selected the builders who had a good track record and whose fee was competitive.

“We had set beginning of December as our deadline for completing the buildings.  We beat that target with a month to spare,” she says.

The Chirumhanzu villagers are not resting on their laurels.  They have other development projects they want to embark on, possibly with the assistance of Chabadza.  Marara said three major projects are in the pipeline.

“Following the successful completion of the mothers’ shelter, we want to drill a borehole and the area is currently being surveyed to find a suitable site.  We also wish to build a pre-school classroom block and a teacher’s cottage at Denhere Primary School.”

Headman Denhere says there are also plans to build a toilet and bathroom block for the maternity patients. The health centre needs to be fenced with piglet wire to keep out pigs and other livestock.

“We need electricity at the clinic. The nearest place with electricity is Chiona Secondary School, just three kilometres away.  We have a generator which has broken down and we now need a more reliable source of power,” says Denhere.

The Chirumhanzu expectant mothers’ shelter is one of three projects which have been completed under the Norway-Zimbabwe partnership, says Chabadza program director, Rev Lloyd Nyarota.

“We have successfully completed a water project a Saungweme in Manicaland, and built a classroom block at Matombo School in Gutu,” he says.

The Chabadza program started in April this year and is set to make a mark in the lives of beneficiaries. For the people of Chirumhanzu, the program is a landmark in efforts to reduce maternal mortality due to expectant mothers delivering at home without professional medical attention as the clinic would be too far to reach on foot and there is no reliable transport system.

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10 Harvey Brown, Milton Park Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263)-4-751509
Website: http://www.umczea.org
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