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Zimbabwe, Covid 19 and the Library

The main library in Gwanda town has remained open since late July, but since schools have been functioning only for some classes and only sporadically, our book box programme for rural schools was suspended until the schools are fully operational. We hope this will be in January. They are now closing for the end of academic year holidays. The main library will also close for a two-week annual break over the Christmas and New Year.

It is not a certainty that the situation will return to normal in January. Zimbabwe has fared relatively well with the pandemic, but currently cases are on the rise and it is feared that this second wave may turn out to be much worse than the first. There is very little capacity for testing, so there may be many more cases than are officially reported. Considering the collapsed state of the health system, lack of facilities and a disgruntled and underpaid health staff who complain of not having access to personal protection, there is also little capacity to assist those who become ill.

Mr Maplanka, an elderly library user, makes use of the facility for handwashing outside the library building

The economy has been in a tailspin for several years, with droughts in the last two years and manipulation of the currency by government leading to incomes being robbed of their former value. Both water and electricity supplies are erratic in the cities and towns, affecting industrial production as well as daily living. Malnutrition is widespread and outright starvation not uncommon, as those surviving on daily vending lose their incomes during the lockdown. Corruption completes the picture of a nation suffering multiple crises. There are a few hopeful signs – better rains at the beginning of the season and an apparent end to runaway inflation – but the benefits of these are yet to be felt by a desperate population.

We continue to see the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Library as a spark of light, providing education and recreation for those whose schools are closed and for college students who continue to pursue their courses. We are committed to keeping the doors open to the public as much as is allowed by law and is reasonable, while keeping staff and users safe. At the earliest opportunity we will resume our delivery of book boxes to schools.

A library staff member displays the protective equipment available to library users. Funds for these were provided by our donor, ELMA

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