Reaching Rural Communities Fighting COVID-19

In Karoi, Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic is in full force. But for the past few weeks the Karoi Lions Club has been working in partnership with the Hurungwe District Hospital to help distribute vaccines as part of the National COVID-19 vaccination program.

Lions club member checks in man for vaccination
In an area hard-hit by the new variant, a Karoi Lion checks in a local man for his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

For much of the past year and a half, Zimbabweans have considered COVID-19 a “city disease” reports CNN, with those in rural areas continuing with their daily routines largely unimpacted since the pandemic began. However, all that has changed with the onset of the delta variant, which has hit the rural populations hard. Localized lockdowns have been put into effect and a national vaccination program has been focused on those areas currently being hardest hit.

Previously, rural areas were not a target for vaccination, partly due to the difficulty of reaching them, reports CNN. Poor roads and a lack of telecommunications made help from volunteers such as Lions crucial to reaching those at risk.

In late July, the Lions of Karoi divided into two teams to travel deep into the affected rural areas. One team made the two-and-a-half-hour, 62-mile (100 km) journey to reach the rural centers of Nyagwizhu and Kaje Kache, where they spent seven hours administering the first dose of the vaccine to 650 people.

A second team traveled two hours in a different direction to reach the Mayamba rural center where they spent six hours administering 270 shots. In total, the Lion-led outreach event enabled 920 people living in rural hotspots to receive a first dose of vaccine.

Not content with that, on their way back from Mayamba the second team took some time to visit an elderly man who they had given a wheelchair to three months earlier. They made sure he was okay and got him and his family vaccinated.

Karoi Lions Club members check on man in wheel chair
Karoi Lions make a special stop to ensure a man they have helped in the past gets his first dose of the vaccine.

Leo District Chairperson Chipo Green says her club was motivated to help when they saw the disturbingly high number of deaths of people who were not vaccinated in their community. “Our desire is to reach herd immunity in our little town,” she says.

The Karoi Lions Club chartered in June 2011 and has 23 members. They have been in partnership with the Ministry of Health for several years now, helping on the Measles Rubella Campaign (funded by LCIF), the Typhoid Vaccination (TCV) program for kids, and the donation of hand sanitizers and detergents to the hospital when in need.

“Every time they need our help in any program, they call us and we are available,” says Green.