Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ngomahuru: A place where all sanity has been lost

  Women’s lobby group WCoZ donated many items including sanitary pads to the hospital                 

After enduring about forty-two kilometres of a sorry
excuse for a tarred road from Masvingo town along Masvingo-Beitbridge highway,
one comes across a faint signage signalling a left turn to Ngomahuru
Psychiatric Hospital, the second largest psychiatric hospital in the country.
It is only 10 kilometres from this point to the
hospital but the state of the road will take you close to an hour to get there.
One would be forgiven for believing this is the road
to hell, a place where no one wants to go or hear about but for some mere
mortals, it is a place that calls for the humanity side in us.
Along the dusty road just close to the hospital, one
makes a right turn and is left with only three kilometres to come face to face
with the harsh realities of Ngomahuru.
Around 170 inmates – 25 of them female – are housed at
the facility which has a capacity to hold 300 inmates if all things are alright.
At this hospital, mental disorders comes in all shapes
and sizes ranging from mild to extreme requiring the dedicated nursing staff to
provide utmost love and care. These nurses deserve a crown for the job they do
despite the harsh and poor working conditions.
The hard and honest truth is that the world views mental
illness with a lot of stigma and many relatives of the mentally-challenged
patients end up dumping them at this hospital never to return again.
Some inmates have been admitted at the institution for
over 20 years and to them, the nursing staff and other inmates have become
their families.
In the 2019 budget, the government allocated a measly
$755 million towards the health sector which was slightly increased during the
supplementary budget.
In these difficult times, the government has literally
turned a blind eye and ear on Ngomahuru which now relies heavily on donor aid.
Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital Medical Superintendent
Dr Parirenyatwa Maramba said the institution faced a number of challenges due
to the worsening economic situation.
The biggest challenge, according to Dr Maramba, is food
shortages. He said when patients receive their medication, they develop monstrous
appetites yet there is no food most of the times.
“Ngomahuru is the second largest psychiatric hospital
in the country. It has a bed set of 300 but on average we admit up to 170 and we
have between 25 and 30 females each time.
“There are many challenges. We don’t have sanitary
pads for female inmates unless somebody has made donations. We have received
some donations in recent days but we welcome more.
“The major issue on the ground is food. We need food
especially meat, cooking oil and sugar among other basics,” said Dr Maramba.
TellZim News learnt that the institution normally gets
mealie-meal and rice but there is no meat or beans with which to take the rice
or sadza.
Patients at times eat vegetables without cooking oil,
porridge without sugar and plain sadza.
“Our main funding comes from government and as you
know the country is going through a difficult time and funds are severely
limited. As long as the government does not have money, we also do not have
“Our patients do not pay any money they are treated
for free so everything depends on the government which is currently struggling.
We need help from everyone who can come and assist. The government is trying
yes but it is not enough. We are overwhelmed with patients and we need a lot of
food,” said Dr Maramba.
One female inmate whom nurses said was getting better
and ready to go home, said she found herself at the hospital after she went
through massive depression.
“I am here because I went through massive depression.
I separated from my husband and when it was time to share property, I was
deprived of everything. My husband took everything and I was left with nothing.
“I was so depressed and I lost my mind. I was admitted
here but now I am ready to go home. I have communicated with people at home to
come get me or send me money but they refuse saying I should stay admitted,”
she said.
Women inmates at Ngomahuru are in dire straits and are
walking around without underwear and an urgent appeal has been made to address
this issue. There is need for bathing towels, detergents, uniforms among other
The Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Masvingo
Chapter in partnership with the Roman Catholic St Peter’s and Paul’s Cathedral
Mothers’ Union donated hundreds of sanitary wear, soap, toothpaste among other
toiletries to ease the shortages.
“We are elated as a chapter to have contributed
towards alleviating the health crisis that is affecting our fellow sisters here
at Ngomahuru Hospital. The women activists initiated and coordinated this
response at chapter level and pledged to mobilise a $10 contribution per person
towards the purchase of commodities needed.
“What the WCoZ chapter members have done in
self-resource mobilisation has shown a great deal of maturity and this exhibits
a vibrant women’s movement capable of supporting one another through difficult
times,” said WCoZ Masvingo Chapter chairperson Joyce Mhungu.

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