Nurses face stigmatisation for role as Covid-19 frontline workers Zimbabwe Nurses Association President Mr Enock Dongo

Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
NURSES who are part of the Covid-19 frontline workers are reportedly facing stigmatisation and discrimination across the country, a development that has seen some of them being evicted from their lodgings as landlords and fellow tenants fear that they are carriers of the virus.

In some instances, nurses are shunned by family and friends and face discrimination when using public transport and when they are shopping in supermarkets.

Health workers have been greatly exposed to Covid-19 and by the end of last month, statistics indicated over 300 having been infected countrywide.

The stigma the health workers are facing make an already challenging situation for the health workers even more difficult for them.

In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo said some healthcare workers were being shunned by community members owing to stigma or fear.

“It happens everywhere but mostly in Bulawayo and Harare. It’s unfortunate that the nurses don’t want us to divulge their names but they have informed us that they are being evicted simply because they are health workers and the landlords suspect that they are carriers of Covid-19,” he said.

Mr Dongo said most nurses were renting and use public transport.

“Most of these nurses rent, they stay in rented houses where sometimes there are five families in one house sharing one bathroom and toilet, so there is a stigma and there is a physical approach and evictions by the landlords. Some of them are saying the other tenants in the house complain to the landlord saying they can’t share the same house with them since they attend to Covid-19 cases. So, this is real, it’s happening,” he said.

Mr Dongo said a nurse should be able to live a decent life and should be well-paid adding that is only possible if the employer improves their conditions of service.

He said they are urging Government to ensure that they receive a decent wage.

“We are saying if our employers give us a decent wage, we are able to own a house and if not a house, we are able to rent a full house. In that way, no one will say you are going to give us Covid-19,” he said.

Mr Dongo said frontline workers were also urging Government to provide more PPEs for them so that they mitigate against the spread of Covid-19.

He said more nurses were testing positive to Covid-19 because of shortage of PPEs in health institutions across the country.

Mr Dongo said frontline workers should not be presumed to carry the virus.

Several incidents of stigmatisation of healthcare workers, Covid- 19 patients, and survivors have been reported elsewhere in the world.

In May, a community of advocates comprising 13 medical and humanitarian organisations including, among others, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Hospital Federation, and World Medical Association issued a declaration that condemned more than 200 incidents of Covid-19 related attacks on healthcare workers and health facilities during the ongoing pandemic.

For instance, in Mexico, doctors and nurses were found using bicycles, as they were reportedly denied access to public transport and were subjected to physical assaults. Similarly, in Malawi, healthcare workers were reportedly barred from using public transport, insulted in the street, and evicted from rented apartments. In India, media reports revealed that doctors and medical staff dealing with Covid-19 patients faced substantial social ostracism; they were asked to vacate the rented homes, and were even attacked while carrying out their duties.

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