Young woman mobilises "twimbos" to raise treatment funds for child with congenital heart complications to access treatment on IWD

By Kudzai Chikiwa

It has become the norm that on the international women’s day, social media will be awash with congratulatory messages as the world celebrates women and appreciate their value in society. Most of these messages attract many “Likes” and “Retweets” as women are showered love, recognition and appreciation. 

This year’s day was unique with a touching story in Bulawayo where women through social media mobilised to get funds a mother who was facing challanges raising RTGS$200 to take with her daughter for a congenital heart disease (CHD) treatment in Mutoko.

What started off as a simple twitter thread asking for assistance ended turned into a big campaign where a lot of money was raised.

Amakhosikazi media caught up with the brains behind the campaign, Ms Mantante Mlotshwa who after seeing a tweet by this reporter Kudzai Chikiwa (@tamary98) decided to start a campaign to raise funds for Mrs Sithembile Dube to go to Mutoko.

“I just felt that as a woman this is the biggest present l could give to a fellow woman. We may send each other all messages but we have to impact someone and touch their lives so that they feel that really they are precious,” said Mlotshwa.

Mlotshwa said women should learn to support each other in times of need. Adding that it does not take the financial muscle of someone to be helpful but a willing heart.

“I didn’t have the RTGS$200 but my heart was stirred and l thought of helping. I just used social media to connect with my friends and some from overseas sent something. l called Buhle's mother and she was shocked. Let’s celebrate each other as women,” she said.

Mrs Dube whose 10 year old daughter Buhlebenkosi has pulmonary stenosis and needs treatment could not hide her joy when she was contacted for a comment.

“Ngimncane ekubongeni kodwa Inkosi izangibongela (I may not thank you enough but God will say “thank you” for me)”, she said full of excitement.

She said she was impressed by women who didn’t know her but have sacrificed to help her .She said all women should continue with such a spirit.

“I want to thank you all for all who have helped though we do not know each other. I now have a smile and my child is happy all because of you,” she said.

Meanwhile more than four Bulawayo babies with CHDs in need of surgeries are going to get treatment in Mutoko this week.

Mpilo Central Hospital, which caters for patients from half of the provinces in Zimbabwe last had a cardiac surgery 10 years ago making the service out of reach for most patients who are usually babies born with congenital heart diseases(CHDs).

For now patients who need cardiac surgeries have to go to Harare or raise at least $10 000 to go overseas.

However there are voluntary Italian doctors who come to All Souls Mission in Mutoko (Mashonaland East province) thrice a year to treat babies and they select a few to go with to Italy for major operations.

This news crew caught up with mothers who are supposed to travel to Mutoko and they said raising money to go to Mutoko has always been a challenge.

Amid the recent price hikes and an unstable economy, it is a nightmare for the unemployed mothers to raise at least RTGS$200 needed for transport to travel to and from Mutoko as well as secure favorable accommodation for their ill babies.

“Its hard to raise RTGS$200 to go to Mutoko but you won’t be having an option since it’s a free opportunity .You calculate that RGTS$200 is better than struggling to raise $10 000 to go overseas,” said Mrs Esther Mwale.

 Another mother, Mrs Nomsa Moyo said besides transport costs, parents have difficulties in securing accommodation while waiting to see the doctors.

“We struggle to secure accommodation as you know children with CHD are sensitive and they don’t need to be exposed to bad weather. This means more costs are incurred. We know noone in Mutoko and it’s usually hard there,” she said.

In an interview, Ms Tendai Moyo the coordinator and founder of Brave Little Hearts Zimbabwe (BLHZ), a group that advocates for children with CHDs lamented the absence of a cardiac surgery in the Southern region saying many babies are dying while awaiting surgeries to be done overseas.

“Since December last year, from the records l have, we lost three babies in Bulawayo. This is very worrisome and it pains us as mothers. We are the ones who watch our babies die and we bear the pain,” she said recalling how she lost her baby in 2017.

She said affected mothers once petitioned Government to assist them but they have not gotten any help yet.

“Last year we petitioned the Minister of State Mrs Judith Ncube who promised us that Government will do something. We asked that if the Minister of Health and Child care can negotiate with these doctors to come and conduct operations in Bulawayo as they do in Mutoko. We are still waiting for a positive move,” she said.

Minister of State Judith Ncube said Government is working on to address the issue.

“I have since approached the Ministry of Health and Child Care and l think Dr Obadiah Moyo (Minister) is doing something to make sure these mothers are assisted,” she said.

CHD is a heart problem which is present at birth and is caused by abnormal formation of the heart during foetal development.

In most cases, when a baby is born with CHD, there is no known reason for it although scientists suggest heart defects can be related to an abnormality in the number of an infant’s chromosomes, single gene defects, or environmental factors.

According to the Heart Foundation in Zimbabwe, heart diseases also contribute to the infant mortality in Zimbabwe which is estimated to be at 60 per 100 000. -@tamary98