In March 2019, a group of UK-based Zimbabweans started an initiative called ‘Gloves for Zimbabwe’ to supply hospitals in Zimbabwe with gloves by April this year. This was in response to a call from doctors taking strike action to bring attention to hospitals that have essentially crumbled under a non-functioning healthcare system. One of the many images from the strike that hit hard was a doctor holding up a placard saying ‘PLEASE GIVE US GLOVES’ – hundreds of doctors and nurses have been working without basic supplies and medicines, and in some hospitals, that means that even babies are being delivered without gloves.
Currently, 115 men and women make up Gloves for Zimbabwe-UK which is coordinated by Miriam Hakata and Conciliate Mukandatsama. Here’s a conversation with Miriam about the initiative.
Can you believe how far our health system has fallen?
I cannot believe it. Even though it has been bad for a long time, it’s shocking to me that our hospitals have been stripped down to nothing.
How did Gloves for Zimbabwe start?
Back in March when the doctors in Zimbabwe went on strike, I read a Facebook post by the journalist Hopewell Chin’ono about how bad things had become. He made an appeal for all Zimbabweans to support where they could through the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative that he started with all the major hospitals.
I really had to do something and so did a friend of mine, Conciliate Mukandatsama. We decided to start a group to answer the call for help. During the doctor’s strike there was a picture of a woman holding up a sign that read ‘PLEASE GIVE US GLOVES.’ It was hard to imagine that something so simple and cheap and necessary was not even available. When I am at work here, I not only have to change gloves between patients, but sometimes with one patient, I will change my gloves three, four times! I couldn’t imagine how nurses could work without gloves? How can operations be done without gloves? What if my sister or your mother was being operated on without gloves? So, we decided to focus on getting as many gloves as we could to ship back home.
The first thing I did was buy 30 boxes of gloves. Conciliate found a supplier, Brosch Direct Ltd, that would sell us boxes of 200 gloves at a good rate. We were going to fund this ourselves and then see who else in our circle would want to take part.
I then told Hopewell about our plan, he did a post on his Facebook page which spread like wildfire, and we have ended up with over 200 men and women donating gloves or money.
Tell us a little about how the group works.
It’s happened so fast and we have been inundated with so many offers that we have had to get organised fast! Anyone who wants to donate gloves or money to buy gloves can. They post the gloves to me or donate money via Conciliate.
I had several conversations with the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative and contacted the Deputy CEO of Harare Hospitals to inform him of our plans. We wanted to make sure that the gloves would get to where they needed to.
How much have you raised so far?
The response has been overwhelming. In less than a month over 200 people have donated gloves or money – and these are not just people in the group. At the end of March (2019), we shipped 230 boxes of gloves with 200 gloves in each box. In total, we received over £1900 that allowed us to buy the gloves, get them shipped and still have money left over.
What help did you get with shipping?
One company had offered us free shipping when we first started but it turned out that it wasn’t quite free, and it also meant that the gloves would only arrive in Zimbabwe in May. That was too long for us to wait because for us, this was an urgent need – now that we knew how bad things were, we wanted to act fast. And, we also wanted to respect and honour all those that had been so generous to donate.
So, we had to search for another shipper and fortunately found Morden Freight Services in Tooting, London who offered a discounted rate when we told them why we were shipping all these gloves. The gloves arrived in the first week of April, just as we wanted!
And are the gloves at the hospitals now?
They are being used in the wards right now! As we worked with Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe, the gloves were cleared this week by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe and officially handed over to the Clinical Director at Harare Hospital. They were then shared between Harare, Parirenyatwa, Mpilo, UBH and Chitungwiza Hospitals.
You’ve achieved the goal of Gloves for Zimbabwe by April. What’s next?
We definitely have to continue to answer the call. Right now, we have 200 boxes of gloves and donations are still coming. Our aim is to have 400 boxes at the end of April ready to ship and this time we want to ensure that gloves get to the smaller district hospitals too.
Even though the focus will remain on supplying gloves, we’ll think about including other essentials even though there are other groups out there. One group is focusing on donations for basic items such as painkillers, bandages and syringes. I was home just last week and was touched by the state of Kwekwe Hospital where I visited a friend. It was heart-breaking to see them without blankets and winter is coming soon so the need will be urgent. So, some of us have started an appeal for blankets for Kwekwe. There is so much to do but we want to try and remain focussed to make an impact.
If someone wants to donate, how can they do that?
They can contact any of us in the group and we’ll give them the information on how to donate or send gloves directly to us – £15 buys 3 boxes of gloves with 200 gloves per box. We have been contacted by people all over the world too – the US, Australia, Canada – and what we can say is do just what we did.
You have achieved so much in so little time!
It couldn’t have been done without everyone doing their part, dipping into their budgets to give and spreading the word. We’re so happy that the gloves have got to where they need to be and hope that donations keep coming in.
You can get more information on how to donate to Gloves for Zimbabwe-UK here:
Miriam Hakata: +44 (0) 07985 418603
Conciliate Mukandatsama: +44 (0) 7958 579193
For information on the Save Our Hospitals Zimbabwe initiative, go to: https://sohzim.com