Zimbabwe-born doctor is assisting the Eswatini government in the fight to arrest the spread of the covid-19 pandemic

For every health crisis or epidemic, there is always someone working behind the scenes ensuring that the health system is doing all it can to meet the demands of the country. Dr Kevin Makadzange is that man.

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Makadzange (44) is a public health specialist who has been working at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Eswatini as a health promotion officer and disease prevention and control officer for the past eight years.

“We provide strategic leadership and guidance to the ministry of health in the areas of health promotion and public health communication,” Makadzange told Wits Vuvuzela

He is in charge of leading the planning and management of plans to do with integrated disease surveillance, emergency responses and non-communicable diseases and control.

Makadzange’s love for medicine sprung at the tender age of nine when he was bitten by a snake at his home village, Chigombwe, in the Manicaland province of eastern Zimbabwe, leading to him spending over a month in hospital. “The care with which the doctors treated me inspired me to be like them.” 

He completed a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBChB ) in 2000 at the University of ZImbabwe before obtaining a master’s degree in public health in 2010 at the University of South Africa (Unisa). He is currently studying towards a doctorate of literature and philosophy with Unisa, which he expects to complete in November.  

With covid-19 cases increasing in Eswatini, Makadzange has played a vital role in the preparedness of the kingdom. “For the past four months, all my work has been supporting the government in the response to the covid-19 pandemic – developing plans, guiding documents and raising awareness.”

Given that this is the first health emergency the country has faced, Makadzange said, “The government is responding very well and the outbreak is under control.”

Covid-19 is not the first health crisis Makadzange has had to deal with. As an international civil servant, he has travelled to over 20 African countries providing technical support to the ministries of health. He was part of the team that assisted with the ebola virus epidemic in West Africa in 2014. He worked in Sierra Leone for four months and marks it as an experience he will never forget. 

Makadzange said: “The trip was unique and life changing. Living for more than three months constantly in fear of an invisible threat, afraid of being infected by a deadly disease was scary but it taught me how to handle difficult public health threats.” 

Dr Kevin Makadzange pictured outside an ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone, during the outbreak of 2014. Photo: Provided.

His wife, Vesta Makadzange, is a qualified nurse working in the Manzini region (the central hub of covid-19) and fully understands what health emergencies entail. “Whenever he leaves home it’s very scary. You don’t know what will happen to him,” she said. As a frontline worker herself, she says that her worst fear is bringing the infection home and spreading it to her children. “My kids are very anxious. Everytime I get home they ask me, ‘How many covid patients did you see today, Mommy?’“

The Makadzanges have three children and with the covid-19 pandemic at his doorstep, Dr Makadzange very quickly had to accept that the pandemic was here and might be here for some time, “I need to do all I can to keep the country safe including my family.” 

With so much at stake, Makadzange keeps himself focused and motivated by employing self-management skills, ensuring he gets enough sleep, eats well and remains physically active.

“Every disease outbreak has a beginning and end,” he said. “One day the covid-19 pandemic will end. There is hope.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Kevin Makadzange is a health promotion officer and disease prevention and control officer for the World Health Organisation in the Kingdom of Eswatini. Photo: Provided.

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