Today marks the 57th day into the lockdown, and coincides with the Africa Day commemorations.
We hold hands with the rest of the continent in celebrating this milestone. For us, the Africa we want and yearn for, is a safe space which respects and values women. The Africa we want is a place of solace which does not condone violence targeted at women and girls. The Africa we want is a democratic space where African leaders are brave enough to speak out against abuse of human rights and to hold each other accountable for atrocities committed to the detriment of humanity.
As at 24 May 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that cumulatively a total of 21 484 rapid screening tests and 15 555 PCR diagnostic tests had been conducted. The total number of positive cases remains at 56.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Re-opening of the Education sector
In light of the announcement that the education sector will be re-opening its doors in June, to facilitate for the ZIMSEC June Exams, various discussions and concerns have been raised in our networks regarding the practicability and safety of this position.
The following fundamental questions have been asked in various platforms:
- Do public schools, including those in the rural areas have capacity and resources to maintain social distance?
- How frequent should teachers and students be tested for COVID-19?
- Is the state ready to bear the brunt of the costs of testing in schools and not unduly burden overstrained households reeling from the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 Lockdown?
- If a student later exhibits COVID-19 symptoms during class, does it follow that we disrupt the exam sessions so as to quarantine the teachers and all the other students who will have come into contact with the suspected patient?
It is therefore important that clear guidelines and operating procedures that respond to the dilemmas outlined above, be published to inform citizens accordingly.
We continue to urge Government that whatever measures adopted, they should prioritise the safety of both the learners and their teachers.
2. Access to health services
Reports have revealed that under a new policy, hospitals are demanding patients to produce COVID-19 tests before being taken in.
We note that Government itself is struggling to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing. Therefore, this has forced the majority to resort to private testing facilities, where Covid-19 testing is averagely costing an exorbitant $65. The majority population cannot afford such costs.
To put this into perspective, a nursing mother seeking treatment for her baby, would be required to produce to 2 test results: for her and for the baby. This approximately sums up to USD$130.
This situation therefore has in the majority of persons failing to access medical attention, pregnant women, and other patients with chronic illnesses failing to access health care services;
- We therefore call upon government to address the question of access to testing for the public bearing in mind that access to basic healthcare services is a fundamental human-right that the State must lead in meeting.
3. Food shortages and diminishing food aid programs
We continue to record food shortages around the country, with most reports showing dwindling of Food Aid Programmes by Government.
The capacity of previously food secure households, to access food, is dwindling rapidly to due to the negative impacts of the lockdown, which has become a lockdown of the informal sector, reducing the capacities of households to access food even in the retail market.
Reports from our networks indicate that the situation on food continue to deteriorate as communities can no longer afford to buy basic commodities such as cooking oil and mealie meal.
We further note that Government is yet to disburse its ZWL$300 food grant per household.
We further highlight that according to ZIMSTATS, the Food Poverty Line for an average household, in March 2020, stood at ZWL$2 365.17.
- We urge Government and the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare to urgently strengthen the food aid distribution at community level with specific expansion of urban communities.
- We call on Government to implement existing comprehensive strategies to alleviate economic shocks from vulnerable households expeditiously to stem the hunger crisis.
- We continue to urge that the disbursement of food aid and grants to vulnerable communities be conducted in a transparent manner, without any political interference.
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)