Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 51 – WCoZ Covid-19 Situation Report

51 Days into the lockdown, and the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 19 May 2020, cumulatively a total of 17 414 rapid screening tests and 14 175 PCR diagnostic tests had been conducted. The total number of positive cases remain at 46 for the past two days, with a country record of 4 deaths, 24 active cases and 18 recoveries. We note that Bulawayo provinces recorded its first recovery case.

Noting that Pillar 4 of the National Preparedness and Response Plan contemplates slowing down international spread of COVID-19, by among other things, monitoring the implementation of the points of entry public health emergency plan and Standard Operating Procedures, we raise concern on the system’s preparedness to detect and manage COVID-19 cases amid growing reports of travellers who are circumventing points of entry procedures in order to avoid quarantine;

  • We remain concerned at the quality and consistency of measures currently being implemented to ensure protection of these vulnerable groups.
  • We urge the urgent release of the reports showing comprehensive programs for containment of COVID-19 the disease amongst the vulnerable populations.

We note the efforts and updates concerning procedures at points of entry and announced today by the Government and its respective agencies, however we remain concerned at the conditions to which persons are subjected to as they are processed through the points of entry. We note with concern that point of entry both legal and illegal have always been points of extreme vulnerabilities for women and hence we call for restraint by public officers and enforcement officers.

We continue to remain vigilant and our networks are continuing to undertake their work addressing cases of sexual assault and rape. We remind the public that reports received by the organisations that constitute the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe will continue to be handled with the greatest care and respect for to the rights of privacy of the survivors.

  • We urge communities to report rape and sexual assault in order to ensure their access to critical health and access to justice services.
    We remain concerned that the Government does not adequately cater for sexual assault and sexual offences response in Zimbabwe. We continue to call out this weakness in order to strengthen the states responsiveness to sexual gender based violence.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Family Planning Pills

The majority of reports received from our chapters today raise a red flag on the shortage of family planning pills. Reports from our networks in Bindura indicate women who are failing to access family planning pills exposing women to unplanned pregnancies and gender based violence when adopting other means of contraceptives methods.

We highlight that family planning pills have been reported to be accessible only through the black market, and is being sold in US dollars only, at an average cost of US $1 per pill.

  • We reiterate our repeated calls for ramping up the availability of the family planning pills which were already in short supply prior to the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • We call for urgent attention to the supply lines for family planning pills specifically, We urge Government to direct its attention and the strengthening of the long standing community distribution mechanisms of the same to ensure undisrupted access to sexual reproductive health and rights services including the supply of family planning pills.

While we understand that resource constrains bedevilling the nation in responding to COVID-19, we emphasize and warn against the temptation to abandon critical service delivery areas for women.

The government must strive to achieve operational and administrative balance in its ability to respond to public health needs of citizens.

2. Mealie Meal Shortage

Reports from Guruve, Mahatshula Bulawayo Ward 3 and Murehwa, continue to lament over mealie meal shortages and hunger citing delays in rolling out of Government’s food aid programs.

This goes to show the magnitude at which pandemics and emergency measures exacerbate women’s vulnerabilities.

  • We therefore bring this situation to the fore and urge Government to step up in implementing strategies to cushion vulnerable populations.
  • We continue to call upon the Government, to ensure gender responsiveness in the operational and administrative measures in executing the ZW$18 billion Economic Rescue and Stimulus Package.

In addition, we remind the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, that now, more than ever, is the time for the institution to effectively service the women’s constituency by faithfully implementing comprehensive methods to alleviate economic shocks upon vulnerable women and women-led households.

Critical Emerging Issues

1. Security of the Persons in Mandatory Quarantine and Isolation Centres

We reiterate our concern of security measures in mandatory isolation and quarantine centres.

Sadly unsurprised at the reports of security incidents at mandatory isolation and quarantine centres.

Distressed at the risks and vulnerabilities of women and

  • We reiterate the need to ensure that deportees and retuning residents are not seen as a homogenous group and consider the risk profiles of persons and the applicable separation of the different sets of returning residents and deportees.
  • We call for the Government to ensure that safety of women, girls, children and the elderly in mandatory quarantine centres.
  • We continue to call for Government to ensure adequate provision of sexual and reproductive health services in quarantine centres to both men and women without stigma.

We remind all citizens, that Zimbabweans throughout the world have the rights to return to Zimbabwe, their home country. And that no persons shall be stateless;

  • We condemn public statements and sentiments, that seek to fuel a negative narrative against Zimbabweans who are returning to Zimbabweans voluntarily.
  • All citizens have a right to be protected from statelessness.

2. Safety of Public transport

Reports from our networks continue to point to weak to non-existence of social and physical distancing measures while accessing public transport.

The lack of capacity by ZUPCO to meet the growing demands of commuters as the eased lockdown in continued indefinitely must be addressed urgently before transport hubs and ZUPCO services become points of high risk exposure to potential infection. We raise the poor adherence and enforcement of the social and physical distancing witnessed in Harare, Chinhoyi Bus terminus and Kwekwe.

  • We therefore continue to raise alarm on the risks posed by the public transport system in spreading the COVID-19.
  • We call upon the enforcement agents to effectively enforce social distancing at bus terminuses and pick up points.
  • We continue to call upon the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and also the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to enhance the capacity of the public transport system to cater for the high demand by the public.

3. Official Masks Guidelines

We continue to raise the fact that Government has yet to release official masks guidelines. We therefore put plainly to Government that citizens are;
I. Using various materials including, non-fabric products to make “face coverings”.
II. “Trying on” masks prior to purchasing.
III. “Using dust masks”.
IV. Using disposable face masks all day for periods of over 3 days or more in many instances
V. Washing and ironing disposable face masks.
VI. Wearing masks continuously for over 5 consecutive hours.

Without clear open and direct Zimbabwean guidelines many citizens have difficulties in undertaking behaviour change, which is critical to save lives, in this regard.

We call once more for Government to Act.

This SITREP is developed by and through, the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID-19 Zimbabwe response

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)