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Monday, December 20, 2010

Chidamoyo Hospital in Zimbabwe


Top Ten ways to know you live in Zimbabwe:

10. When you open a bottle of medicine you take out the cotton and save it to use for cotton swabs for giving injections/starting IVs at the hospital. We actually open our ART medicine and take the cotton out before dispensing to the patient! Even though we are a country that used to export quality cotton, it is now all exported to China to pay for the cheap things they send here (airplanes, tractors, buses) and so there is no cotton available here. So we find ways to get our own!

9. Patients are so happy when you read their X-ray and say they have TB they actually clap and ululate! They now know they will get admitted, have 3 meals of good food and 1 tea a day, more than they can ever think of getting at home. Over 85% of Zimbabweans do not have enough food supplies to feed themselves adequately each day. I assume the 15% who do have are government ministers now in power.

8. When we see a teacher at the hospital we stand and give them a standing ovation and offer them to be seen first in the queue because they are now an endangered species. We have also decided to offer free treatment to all teachers and their family. With 70,000 teachers not reporting for work last term and more leaving each week, most schools are grossly understaffed. Some of our schools have 1 teacher present out of 25. What kind of education children will receive is of grave concern by all parents. A teacher (and all civil servants) makes $100 US month and bus fare from Chidamoyo to get that salary from their bank in Karoi is $8 for one round trip. What do they live on for the month? We remember when teaching was a proud profession that people looked up to with respect - now they look at you like you are stupid to be working for so little.

7. The doctor, Major and I have a running bet each day to see how many scotch carts can fit into our scotch-cart parking area at the hospital. Scotch carts are ox or donkey drawn 2 wheel carts that are now coming 2-3 days walk to the hospital with patients since there is limited bus service and the cost of buses is so prohibitive. Most people don't have the foreign currency to pay for the bus in the rural areas.

6. Every night we wait anxiously for news in the progress in the unity government. We turn on the radio and listed to the jammed and banned VOA newscasts for the true news. Seems like most days the news is fighting over the Mercedes Benz cars that Members of Parliament should take or not take!

5. We all have ZESA anxiety. ZESA stands for our electricity company (Zimbabwe Electricity Sometimes Available). When it comes on and when it will go off we are never sure. Should we start to bake a loaf of bread in our bread maker or will it go off before the 3 hours needed? Should I cook beans, can I do a load of laundry before the electricity goes out. Maybe we can do X-rays sometime this week without starting our generator. And then once it goes out when will it come back on? We are thankful that we do get it sometime each day - even if it is during the night.

4. Every day you have to spend time deciding: what am I going to eat that will use up the least amount of food I have and do I have gas to cook it if there is no electricity. If there is no electricity and I have gas I don't want to use a lot of it, so I wouldn't cook beans with gas, only things that need a short amount of time. We are coming up with "meals in 1 minute" to save on gas and get it done before the electricity may go off. I try to save my meat or canned food for when I have electricity and eat eggs in 101 different ways to save gas and food! It is always a challenge each day to plan so that I don't have to cook outside with wood!

3. This week we got our monthly salary deposited into our banks in Zim dollars. For 4 months now there is no place in the country that will accept this money (Zim dollars) for payment so essentially we have had no salary in 4 months. Officially this month the Zim dollar was made non-existent for 1 year and cannot be used for legal tender, so we got paid in money that has been banned from use! We did get a $100US in retention bonus that is given to you whether you are a doctor or a sweeper in the hospital. So we have finally reached socialism!

2. We recently had a problem with our electricity not working. We sent our driver in 4 times to take the ZESA people out to find the fault and each time they "thought" maybe they had found the problem and fixed it and when our driver returned home - still no electricity! Finally on Day 13 without power they found the problem and fixed it and we got so excited when it came on. Two hours later it was turned off for "load shedding" after we had saved them power for 13 days straight - go figure!

1. The number one answer to know you live in Zimbabwe is come to our hospital on any day of the week and see people coming with bags (black garbage bag size) of peanuts, maize, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, soy beans, or pumpkins. This is now the form of payment for our services at the hospital! We also take goats, chickens, pigs and turkeys! We haven't bought any food for the hospital in 6 months because of this new barter system! We literally are providing medical services for peanuts!

To Learn More about Chidamoyo Hospital go to

An Article on Chidamoyo from the New York Times

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