By Robin Muchetu
African culture does not allow us to love each other from a distance, we are very closely knit. We see each other daily, sitting and chatting with neighbors and relatives with reckless abandon without suspicion and distrust as part of that closeness.
Covid-19 has however, called for the breaking of these traditions as adhering to those practices is increasing the spread of the deadly virus. As a regular practice, a daughter-in-law and son-in-law traditionally visit the village during the Christmas holidays usually, to enjoy the festivities and during that period there is a lot of close interaction with family and friends. For Ms. Nyaradzo Dube (35), of Nkulumane suburb, the script reads the same during the Christmas holidays last year.
“My husband works outside the country, so he came for the December holidays last year to visit our rural homes as we were missing our families and our relatives. We travelled to Masvingo where I come from then proceeded to Sanyati where my husband comes from.”
It is very usual in African tradition that couples visit the village to remain in touch with family.
“However, during that visit we came in close contact with a large number of people as we were hugging, touching and closely interacting as we had missed each other and I think that is where we may have got the infection,” said Ms. Dube.
She said they enjoyed the holidays and returned to Bulawayo where she started coughing but she dismissed it assuming it was just a regular cold as it had been raining a lot throughout the holiday.
“It came a time when my husband had to return to work and needed to get a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test that would enable him to cross the border. So, he went to a local laboratory and got tested, the following day they called him early in the morning and informed him that he had tested positive for Covid-19. We were stunned.
Immediately we began looking for information around Covid-19 and as we were researching, we discovered that all the symptoms that I had, were actually consistent with someone who is Covid-19 positive. The day after my husband got his results, I also went for a test and indeed I was positive,” she added.
Her husband had very few symptoms compared to her. Ms. Dube said she suffered bad headaches, coughing, vomiting, flue, sore throat, fatigue, and also a running stomach.
“We then looked for some drugs at a local pharmacy as advised. We also looked for our herbalist who usually assists us with herbs. As a family, we have a culture of using natural herbs since 2015. We decided to go natural several years ago as we were avoiding relying heavily on western medicine which has a lot of chemicals.
“I have a problem with stomach acids so after taking modern medicine for years with no joy, I decided to try traditional herbs and they have been working for me better than drugs from the pharmacies. Traditional medicine is also affordable,” she added.
She also introduced them to her mother and mother-in-law and they have also been relying on them.
“The herbalist delivered a dose of what he called Covid-19 special and another for assisting with relieving chest pains that we were to use with my husband. I do not know for sure what the herbs were exactly as they were a mixture, we just used them to steam and drink as directed by the herbalist. Since we had known him and used his herbs for years, we were confident in him and used them without a doubt. The herbs were very bitter but we soldiered on. It was a matter of life and death,” she added with a chuckle.
Ms. Dube, a secondary school teacher in Filabusi, said she also used ginger, garlic, lemons and mango leaves that she boiled and also steamed with.
“I would also add Vicks VapoRub to the water and that helped ease the heaviness that I felt in my chest. I would feel a buildup of phlegm in my chest after steaming and would cough it out and my chest would be much better. We took these herbs alongside the antibiotics that we were prescribed. Since we have two children aged eight and four, we also decided to steam them using the herbs but we never got them tested, they seemed fine and we just took precautions to ensure their safety in the home. I got them multivitamins to boost their immune system,” she added.
The herbs the couple was prescribed were only for a week and sure enough after a week they started feeling much better.
“I encourage anyone who gets symptoms of the virus and is confirmed positive to take natural herbs to aid in their recovery because they do work, I am a testimony with my husband that these herbs help in easing the pain and discomfort of the virus,” she said.
She dismissed sentiments around traditional herbs being dangerous and unsuitable for aiding Covid-19 patients.
“Scientists have their own justifications as they are the researchers but I think steaming with herbs helps a lot and even for the regular cold as it eases congestion. The toxins will be leaving the body so it actually helps,” said Ms Dube.
Asked on whether she got a retest, she said no.
“As for me the virus cleared by itself after about 12 days, I didn’t go and get another test as I was feeling better by the day until I fully recovered. I then started being able to eat as my appetite had returned. I also regained my sense of smell,” she added.
Some of her neighbours and friends knew they were battling the virus and some chose not to believe her story.
“Some just didn’t believe me; they even came to visit and I attended to them from a distance. But some dismissed me and came into the house and I had to be harsh on some occasions to chase them away so that I could save them and their families. I did not want to put them at risk, yes I knew they meant well in wanting to come and see me,” added Ms. Dube.
She said people were still to grasp the concept of staying home as much as possible as moving around puts them at risk. She managed to contain the spread of the virus in her home by sticking to her side of the house as they have shared accommodation. She informed her fellow housemates of the predicament and they did not visit each other until she fully recovered.
She encouraged going the traditional route saying it is effective.
“There is a notion that traditional medicines are for witchdoctors and many evil things. But if you use them purely for medicinal purposes, they are very effective. It then becomes a problem when one uses it to harm others. The youth must embrace it, it actually works.
We must get rid of the idea that herbs are juju/muthi. We have them at our disposal in our homes. It’s just that we do not know them or how to use them, so we should also research around them,” he said.
She added that people must respect and practice social distancing as that was one of the effective possible ways people could reduce the spread of the virus together with wearing masks and regular washing of hands. Her husband later tested negative and later managed to return to his base outside the country. The Sunday News