Zimbabwe Faces Shortages and Rise of Herbal Medicine

Healthcare Crisis in Zimbabwe

by Victor Adetimilehin

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, the largest referral center in Zimbabwe, is battling a two-pronged attack on effective cancer treatment. The hospital is grappling with a critical shortage of medical equipment, and a concerning rise in patients seeking alternative medicine before proper medical treatment, according to hospital officials.

The oncology department at the hospital, which is the sole radiotherapy center in the country, is overwhelmed. It contends with over 150 patients daily despite its radiotherapy machines being out of service. This shortage forces patients to rely solely on chemotherapy and brachytherapy for cervical cancer, further straining resources.

80% of Cancer Patients Arrive Late for Treatment

Nothando Mutizira, head of oncology at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, expressed alarm over the high number of patients presenting with advanced-stage cancer. “Unfortunately, 80 percent of our patients present with stage 3 or 4 disease,” she said. “Once patients present with advanced disease, the cure rate and success stories are much lower.”

Mutizira attributes this delay in seeking medical attention to a lack of awareness and the growing popularity of herbal remedies. “Patients tend to use herbs before they seek assistance at health centers,” she explained. “By the time they come to see an oncologist, their cancer is more advanced and more difficult to treat.”

In contrast, the hematology department at Parirenyatwa, which deals with blood disorders, reports a 40-50% success rate in curative treatment. “Even if our patients come at an advanced stage, we can safely say that over 40% will be cured at the end of their chemotherapy cycle,” said Moses Chatambudza, a specialist hematologist who heads the department.

Chatambudza emphasized the need for improved access to services like bone marrow transplants, which are currently unavailable in Zimbabwe and force patients to seek treatment abroad. Patients with treatable blood cancers are facing delays and potential complications due to this lack of crucial medical services.

Delayed Diagnosis and Treatment Reduce Chances of Survival

The situation at Parirenyatwa highlights the devastating impact of delayed diagnosis and treatment on cancer patients in Zimbabwe. With inoperable radiotherapy machines and a rise in patients seeking herbal remedies first, many patients are missing the critical window for successful cancer treatment. This not only reduces their chances of survival but also places a greater strain on the healthcare system as doctors grapple with more advanced cases.

The crisis at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals underscores the urgent need for improved healthcare infrastructure in Zimbabwe. Shortages of essential equipment, like functioning radiotherapy machines, and a lack of public awareness about the dangers of prioritizing herbal remedies over conventional medicine are creating a perfect storm for a worsening cancer crisis. Urgent action is needed to address these issues and ensure that Zimbabweans have access to the proper medical care they need to fight cancer.

Calls for Increased Awareness and Investment

Medical professionals at Parirenyatwa are calling for a multi-pronged approach to address this crisis. Public awareness campaigns are needed to educate Zimbabweans about the importance of early cancer detection and the dangers of using herbal remedies instead of seeking professional medical help. Additionally, increased investment in healthcare infrastructure is crucial to ensure that hospitals like Parirenyatwa have the equipment and resources they need to effectively diagnose and treat cancer.

The situation in Zimbabwe serves as a stark reminder of the importance of robust healthcare systems and access to proper medical treatment. With early detection and proper treatment, many cancers are treatable. However, without these crucial elements, cancer can be a deadly disease.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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