Celebrating and honoring nurses at the frontline of fighting COVID-19 in Zimbabwe

May 12 every year is International Nurses Day. In 2020, the world celebrates nurses under the theme A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health. The theme could not be more apt, as this comes at a time when nurses find themselves at the frontline of a global health pandemic. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the world in a week of commemorating and honoring the nurses who bring health to the people of Zimbabwe.

According to the State of the World’s Nursing Report, 2020 developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), nurses make a central contribution to national and global targets related to a range of health priorities, including universal health coverage, mental health and non-communicable diseases, emergency preparedness and response, patient safety, and the delivery of integrated, people-centered care. The WHO has also emphasized that by developing the nursing workforces, countries can achieve the triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality, and supporting economic growth.

Nurses are the backbone of the public health system in the country, upon which most depend. Despite this critical role, nurses and midwives in Zimbabwe are poorly remunerated, with their salaries unable to match the great value they bring to the protection of the rights to health and life. For years now, nurses along with other health personnel, have championed calls for the proper resourcing of public health facilities and humane working conditions. At this present time, the essence of the nurses’ call is brought to light.

Yet, even under the most extreme of conditions, nurses continue putting the call to health and their patients well-being above all else. Nurses stand resolutely and firmly in leadership as we battle COVID-19 and other ailments afflicting our people. In the words of Nelson Mandela, one takes to the frontline when there is crisis.

Nurses in Zimbabwe continue to work without adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other necessary tools of trade, and without adequate remuneration to meet their needs. The Forum reminds the Government that every person has the right to fair and safe labour standards and that includes being paid a fair and reasonable wage, in terms of section 65(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013. Under section 65(4) of the same Constitution, every employee is entitled to just, equitable and satisfactory conditions of work.

The Forum stands in full solidarity and support of our nurses in their mission and struggle for the full respect and recognition of human rights, including the right to health. As such, the Forum calls on the Government to take heed of the recommendation of the WHO in its statement on International Nurses Day, 2020 to ensure: The occupational safety and health of nurses and all health workers, including unhindered access to PPE to enable them to safely provide care and reduce infections in health care settings; That nurses and all health care workers have access to mental health support, timely pay, sick leave, and insurance, as well as access to the most up-to-date knowledge and guidance required to respond to all health needs, including outbreaks; That nurses are given the financial support and other resources required to help respond to and control COVID-19 and future outbreaks; and That, along with other medical and scientific professionals, nurses are given a voice, are consulted and partake in shaping the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)