First Lady facilitates healthcare workers’ training Angel of Hope Foundation patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and Ms Jeannie Burns Buckner, admire a newly born baby delivered at the hospital built by her Angel of Hope Foundation and US partners in Chisizya, Binga last year. – Pictures: John Manzongo.

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke-Senior Reporter

Health Ambassador, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has facilitated the training of a group of healthcare professionals in the use of advanced mammography equipment which is set to be delivered in the country soon.

This follows a recent visit by Zimbabwean specialists to Belarus, where they got hands-on training on the use of digital mammogram units used there. They also got a feel of best practices in their fields of expertise.

This week, a group of radiologists, radiographers and technicians received training from experts from Belarus on the use of this machinery as well as its maintenance and upkeep. 

Those who got training in Belarus were also part of the trainers as they imparted the knowledge they got to their counterparts.

The delivery of the state-of-the-art equipment, which she sourced from Belarus, is set to improve the rate at which breast cancer cases are being detected in the country.

Speaking during the training, the beneficiaries of the First Lady’s benevolence expressed gratitude to her for giving them an opportunity to learn new modalities being used in developed countries.

Mammography is the best way of detecting all types of breast cancer as it increases the detection of small abnormal tissue growths confined to the milk ducts in the breast. This reduces the risk of death due to breast cancer.

Said Ms Farai Magudu, a radiographer who was part of the team which travelled to Belarus for the initial training: “I was one of the people who benefited from Amai’s philanthropic work through the Angel of Hope Foundation where we got an opportunity to go to Belarus for a skills training in mammography. We got an opportunity to visit many hospitals there and we were able to see how they work, their professionalism and the type of equipment they have. As I put what I learnt there to work, I believe it will have a great impact on the health outcomes in our communities.”

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa is hugged by expecting mothers who could not hide their joy at the mothers’ waiting shelter which she initiated and constructed for them at Mvuma District Hospital.

She promised to impart the knowledge that she had gained to other radiographers who had not been part of the training.

Ms Magudu said her visit to Belarus had changed her view of radiography after she experienced how new technologies could impact on their work.

“The kind of equipment we had to operate with was state-of-the-art equipment that we had not been exposed to, so I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity granted by Amai Mnangagwa, especially to me as a young woman,” she added.

Dr Kudzanai Mungate, a radiologist who received training yesterday also expressed his gratitude to the First Lady for the opportunity to advance his skill.

“I want to thank the first lady for giving us the opportunity to learn and be taught about how we can use new technology to detect breast cancer. It is not every day that we get such opportunities to further enhance our skills. We will take this knowledge and use it to train other radiologists who have not received such training so that we can all play our part in improving our health systems,” he said.

Among those who travelled to Belarus was Mr Tinashe Gotora, the principal biomedical engineering technician at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

His duty is to operate and provide maintenance to ensure the machine continues to work optimally.

“This training has provided me with the knowledge of how the mammography equipment operates and how we maintain it. Now I know how to fix these machines once they get here. It is going to benefit the nation at large as you know that breast cancer is a disease that has taken the lives of many women in Africa and in Zimbabwe. I want to thank Amai Mnangagwa for giving me this rare opportunity to study mammography and make a change in our spaces. The President is always saying ‘nyika inovakwa nevene vayo’, we have been given the chance to do this through this programme,” he said.

Mrs Tendai Sachikonye, a radiographer who received training yesterday, said it was exciting to be part of the team which was breaking new ground in the radiography imaging field.

“Today we have come for training for mammography, which is one of the modalities that we use in radiography. This machine specialises in imaging of the breast. Currently most of the machines that are being used in the country are manual but this machine that we are being trained to use is digital radiography. This is where we are moving,” she said.

“We want to thank the First Lady for the opportunity that she has granted us as women and as healthcare workers to advance our skills. This training will help me to improve my skills and it will also help other radiographers who were not part of the training as we will also train them. It will also be of great importance to the nation at large because it means now we have increased the number of modalities that we have and it translates to an increased number of people who will be imaged. This means cancer will be found at an early stage because we now have more machines to do screening for women.”

Angel of Hope Foundation patron and the country’s Health and Childcare Ambassador, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa interacts with patients who were waiting for cataract surgery while Palestine Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Tamer Almassri and Ambassador Imad Al-Zuhairi look on at Sekuru Kaguvi eye unit last year.

According to the National Cancer Registry Annual Report for 2018, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among Zimbabwean women after cervical cancer. It accounted for 8 percent of all cancer cases recorded in the country.

While the new equipment will focus on the detection of breast cancer, Amai Mnangagwa has been instrumental in improving the many aspects of the country’s health systems.

Through her Angel of Hope Foundation’s partnership with her friend Mrs Jeannie Burns Buckner, Matter Foundation and Love for Africa, she has sourced funding for an ultra-modern hospital in Chisizya village in Binga.

The First Lady has also been instrumental in the construction of waiting mothers’ shelters at Chapoto clinic in Kanyemba and at Mvuma district hospital, among many others.

Last year, she also facilitated a camp for eye surgeries at Parirenyatwa where more than 500 patients were operated through her efforts.

Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Aspect Maunganidze said through her various works, the First Lady had brought a lot of positive change to the health sector.

“All her projects and activities have had so much impact on various levels in terms of health care from primary level to quaternary level which is the specialist level. These efforts have been at various angles from infrastructural development to training of personnel which will improve the human resources and make people motivated to stay and work,” he said.

Health and Childcare Ambassador, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa conducts first eye dressing on Gogo Esteri Zvirahwa from Nyanga after eye cataract surgery at Sekuru Kaguvi eye unit last year.

He said the health sector had also made progress in the fight against non-communicable diseases through the efforts of Amai Mnangagwa.

Dr Maunganidze also said various levels of health personnel had benefited from the First Lady’s partnerships and collaborations through the Angel of Hope Foundation.

He said more than 200 health professionals had so far benefited from training provided by the First Lady through her partnership with the Merck Foundation.

“Through her collaboration with the First Lady of Belarus we are now looking at improving cancer screening, especially breast cancer through the mobile mammogram unit which is expected in the country. This will benefit a lot of our people who have not been able to afford to have mammograms done. Most of our institutions have not had a mammogram done in five years so this is very critical in our fight against cancer,” he added.

He said other activities done by the First Lady’s engagement with communities had also had a positive impact on the health outcomes.

This included the male engagement drives where she spoke to men about prostate cancer and the importance of getting screened. She also spoke to communities about the need to end child marriages and gender based violence.

“In the long-term, these efforts will help to reduce the health complications that are associated with early marriage, with physical injuries sustained during GBV and many others. So to us, all her efforts really have made health service delivery much easier. People are now discussing a lot of issues that were not discussed before and they now have a personal health conscientisation,” he added.

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