Finding professional doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe has become increasingly harder over the past few years, but one doctor is feeling it's God's call for his life.
Tongai Chitsamatanga is a 41-year-old doctor that could be making a lot more money for his skills almost anywhere else. However, he has felt God pulling him back to Zimbabwe to help children in need.
Chitsamatanga is a doctor in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in a 13-bed children’s hospital that opened last year in April. He recently helped an 8-year-old with dislocated hips, two children with bone infections, and another two with clubfoot, according to Christianity Today.
"To me, that is practical Christianity," Chitsamatanga said during an interview. "Rather than saying you’re Christian and having nothing to show for it."
The Connections podcast: real life, real faith
Chitsamatanga and his colleague Rick Gardner are the only two pediatric orthopedic surgeons in the country of 15 million people.
The hospital Chitsamatanga works at was built by a Christian non-profit organization called CURE International. They run eight hospitals around the world, including this one aptly named CURE Zimbabwe. It's the only place in this African country where parents can bring their children who have ailments such as clubfoot, knock knees, and bowed legs.
"It has to be your calling. People will say, ‘Come, come, come,’ but they might not be able to get the same kind of blessing as you."
Even before the pandemic, the country faced a mass exodus of nurses and doctors because of the low wages and poor working conditions. Health care workers are often drawn to the better working conditions and pay in the developed world.
In 2021, more than 2,200 medical staff, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, left government service, according to Zimbabwe's government's Health Services Board.
Chitsamatanga had previously worked in the UK, but his beginning in medicine was in Africa. He studied for five years at the University of Zimbabwe’s medical school and then spent two years interning at Harare’s main Parirenyatwa Hospital.
Faith in Action
Working as a doctor in Zimbabwe in 2006, Chitsamatanga recalled the great need for medical care.
Back then, the mission hospital run by the United Methodist Church hadn’t had a doctor in four years. Plus, according to the World Health Organization, the average Zimbabwean citizen was not expected to reach their 40th birthday.
The mission hospital, and only four others in the country, offered antiretroviral drugs to prevent AIDS-related deaths, thanks to assistance from the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Finding access to antiretroviral drugs was difficult for many patients who needed them, so Chitsamatanga travelled to rural clinics to distribute them.
Driving home in the dark one evening, he came across a person pushing a woman in a wheelbarrow. The HIV-positive woman couldn't walk and had asked a family member to bring her to the clinic. By the time they got there, it had closed for the day.
With compassion in his heart, Chitsamatanga administered the life-saving drugs after assessing the woman right on the side of the road. Three months later the woman walked into his clinic and asked if the doctor remembered her.
"To me that was a testimony, to say, ‘This is exactly what the Lord wants at this moment in time. This is why I’m here.' If I think or pray about something and realize this is the direction God wants me to take, then I just take it. I need to go the way the Lord is pointing."