Coordinated actions in preparing and responding to COVID-19 in Zimbabwe

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working and programming under the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (NANGO) health sector led by Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN) engaged through various platforms and came up with a common position in response to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak. COVID 19 was declared a global epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 January 2020 and is spreading rapidly and causing untold deaths.

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CSOs in the health sector are concerned that any potential spread of COVID-19 has social, economic, and security threats for the country. Further, taking into consideration that the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Universal Health Coverage, Transition Stabilization Program, National Health Strategy and Sustainable Development Goals, which are strategic agendas for the socio-economic transformation of the health sector in the country, will be severely disrupted by disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 if there are no measures for timely coordination, collaboration, and communication of bold decisions.

Cognizant that any potential COVID-19 spread in Zimbabwe would be devastating in light of the multiple health challenges that the country is already faced with, which include: (1) incapacitation of health personnel; (2) acute shortage of essential drugs owing to foreign exchange incapacities (3) existing endemic diseases such as HIV, TB and Malaria, (4) antiquated health equipment and infrastructure, with limited resilience to numerous disease outbreaks;

Noting the role of public health institutions to respond to public health emergencies as declared by WHO and all relevant stakeholders;

Noting and cognizant of the strong evidence that health security depends on the establishment of resilient and adaptive national health systems, with a clearly defined public health coordination mechanism that is well funded;

Acknowledging efforts by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other stakeholders including CSOs, private sector and the statement by the President of Zimbabwe in response to COVID-19 outbreak;

The CSOs Health Sector:

  • Commits to coordinate efforts and collaborate with other stakeholders including the Government in response to COVID-19.
  • Welcomes the statement made by Government to enhance capacity to respond to any potential cases of COVID-19.
  • Enhances community-based monitoring and surveillance for COVID-19.
  • Ensures effective communication and community engagement by sharing correct, apt and timely information concerning COVID-19.

Calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to consider the following actions as part of the national response:

  • To restrict entry into the country of people coming from countries with confirmed cases;
  • To facilitate the repatriation of citizens who may want to come back home, but ensure that they are properly assessed to identify potential cases of COVID-19;
  • To ring fence national resources to support a robust national response and
  • To enhance the mental well-being of people in quarantine zones and for health care providers.

We call upon CSOs to consider the following actions as part of the national response:

  • To redesign programming methodologies including reviewing conferences, workshops and international travel;
  • To enhance workplace safety issues through providing hand sanitizers and scale down on meetings; and
  • To ensure the wellness of staff members through introducing flexible working hours.

Source: National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (NANGO)