International Nurses Day: Celebrating Nurse Mzingaye Sibanda
Today is International Nurses Day and I would like us to take a moment to celebrate our nurses. Why?
Over 60% of the African population consists of young people and lives in rural areas where you will find a district or provincial hospital with limited numbers of health workers. When you visit these facilities, over 90% of the much-needed health services are provided by nurses.
On this special day, I would like to celebrate nurse Mzingaye Sibanda. He is based at Nkayi District hospital located 170 KM from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. Nurse Sibanda is my nurse.
On a regular day, he attends to about 20 clients while on busy days over 50 clients. Most of his clients are young people and the bulk of his day-to-day work involves providing sexual and reproductive health services including HIV counselling, testing, treatment, care and support services.
In order for us to realise universal health coverage (health care for everyone, everywhere in the world), we need to lobby our governments to invest in health workers and in the nursing workforce, such as nurse Sibanda, who are vital levers in delivering rapid and cost-effective health services to adolescents and young people.
The HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe (15-49 years) currently stands at about 13 % and is among the highest in Southern Africa alongside eSwatini, South Africa, and Lesotho. Nkayi district in Matebeleland province is particularly affected by HIV. The HIV prevalence for young adults aged 15 – 24 years is at about 10% which is very high compared to provinces like Manicaland and Mashonaland west with prevalence below 5%.
Poverty, unemployment and poor health are some of the obstacles that hold us back as young people from realizing our ambitions of a promising future. Adolescent girls and young women are particularly affected by HIV. In our quest to earn a living, girls and young women engage in transactional sexual relationships with older or wealthier men (commonly referred to as sugar daddies or blessers) in exchange for money and gifts. This exposes us to HIV infection and unplanned pregnancies.
As Africans, we all recognise the awkward silence that befalls us when we are watching TV with our parents and suddenly a sex scene that borders pornography pops up. What do we do? We try to find the remote control or maybe, because of being ashamed to be in the presence of such a scene we shut down the TV or leave the room.
What our parents and guardians forget is that young people lack the basic knowledge and information about sex and reproductive health rights and most people are shy to talk openly about sex with their parents or guardians as it mostly considered a taboo subject in many African countries.
We as young people from Nkayi are more comfortable to turn to nurse Sibanda as he incorporates youth friendly techniques such as music in his work. This has enabled more adolescents to receive appropriate sexual and reproductive health care, preventive education and as a result enhanced access to contraception, STI testing, and treatment.
Nurse Sibanda’s efforts help alleviate the worrying trend of high teenage pregnancy and a high disease and death burden due to HIV, which sets in motion a lifetime of missed opportunities for many generations to come and impedes Zimbabwe’s potential to further its economic development.
On this International Nurses Day, let us remember that in order for us to realise universal health coverage (health care for everyone, everywhere in the world), we need to lobby our governments to invest in health workers and in the nursing workforce, such as nurse Sibanda, who are vital levers in delivering rapid and cost-effective health services to adolescents and young people.