LINDA NYONDO, Lusaka
A GROUP of women in Changa village in Chipangali district listen attentively as a health worker sensitises them about the coronavirus, explaining its signs and symptoms.
The officer from Chipata district health office also talks about how the respiratory disease is spread and how it can be prevented.
When the health worker finishes talking, the women are eager to ask questions.
Their main concern is how they can protect themselves from their husbands, whom they say are always on the move and can bring the virus home.
Eunice Mwanza, a 34-year-old married woman with five children, was the first one to air out her concerns.
She is concerned about her husband, who is always mobile. Her fear is that in his quest to fend for the family, he might contract the virus and expose family members to the disease.
“With this coronavirus, us women are taking care of ourselves and we are usually home. But how do we protect ourselves from our husbands who go for work and mingle with a lot of people?’’ she asked.
Ms Mwanza told the health officer and the headmen who were present during the meeting that sexual relations between the women and their husbands will not be allowed for the period of 14 days.
She is willing to wait for the 14 days to elapse for her to have sexual relations with her husband.
This will be done as a way of protecting themselves and other family members from contracting the coronavirus.
“My husband and I have agreed to go on self-quarantine whenever one returns from the city. During that period, he will stay in his own hut and we will be taking food to him,” Ms Mwanza said.
Some women in Changa village believe that the one metre physical distance can only be achieved when the wife or husband go into quarantine for a period of 14 days.
After 14 days, the couple can start relating with each other like before by normalising their way of life.
Some women argued that health workers at the health facility have not conducted any mandatory tests for COVID-19 from the villages, a situation they described as risky.
The other complaint they had was that from the time health officers started conducting sensitisation on the dangers of the coronavirus, villagers are not being treated for other ailments.
The women have appealed to the minister of Health to send a team to screen people because most of the locals are not taking the outbreak of the coronavirus seriously.
Although Mwanida Ngoma is agreeing with her fellow women on the need for couples to observe the 14 days quarantine upon return from their business trips for fear of contracting the disease, which does not have a cure, she says the outbreak of COVID-19 has promoted good hygiene among the villagers.
“In the past, I could sometimes go to bed without bathing or washing my hands, but nowadays, I am forced to bath every day before going to bed,” Ms Ngoma said.
She believes that the biggest ‘punishment’ this disease has brought is bathing every day even when one is tired or sick.
The women were also contemplating quarantining all the visitors who visit them for fear that they might take the virus to the village.
Changa village headman agrees with the women’s proposal to practise 14 days self-quarantine whenever a wife or husband returns from a business trip.
“I support the suggestion by the women, but they should understand that if their decision is not handled well, it has serious repercussions,” he said.
The headman has since advised the women to discuss this with their husbands.
He said neither of the partners should be forced into agreeing to avoid misunderstandings in future.
“As a traditional leader, I cannot agree or disagree, my only advice is that there should be mutual agreement to all decisions being made,” the headman said.
He said officials from the Ministry of Health should also go to the village and sit with the couples and discuss how the issue of quarantine can be handled.
LINDA NYONDO, Lusaka