Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 96 WCoZ Situation Report

96 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 2 July 2020, the total number of Covid-19 had increased to 617 after 12 new cases tested positive. 10 new confirmed cases are from returnees, while 2 cases are local transmissions.

We continue to reiterate the need for the Ministry of Health and Child Care to avail to the public, demographic disaggregation to all their statistics and to fully account for the tracing of local transmission of Covid-19 cases so as to appropriately contextualize the response of both communities and the health sector to the on-going pandemic.

We highlight the on-going industrial action by workers in the health sector. Whilst we are well aware that Zimbabwe has been facing rolling public sector strikes for over 18 months now, we remain critically concerned by the on-going industrial actions by health sector workers during the Covid-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe health sector which was characterised by multi-layered fragilities.

We note the efforts to engage in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum and the unilateral measures by the Government of Zimbabwe as employer to cushion public sector workers through a 50% pay rise and USD75 allowance; 

We note that the Government of Zimbabwe has received over USD$300 million dollars in Covid-19 support from various institutions, partners and interest groups, against the background of the crippling health sector industrial action to; 

  • Prioritise health sector workers and public sector workers appropriately and address their concerns.
  • We call upon the Government to resist the urge to erode workers’ rights through strike breaking actions, threats of loss of government accommodation among other undesirable actions in response to workers exercising their constitutionally protected rights.
  • We call upon the Government to demonstrate leadership and walk the high road to secure the progressive realisation of the rights to health of ordinary citizens, particularly women, who remain the greatest losers in the lack of progress on this matter.

Alarmed at the on-going relentless policy position by Government to persist in monetising the right to water through the installation of water meters. The nationwide roll-out of the program seeks to fully install water meters over the next six months which is not indicative of a citizen’s responsive approach to water and sanitation management in Zimbabwe.

We are confounded by the tone deaf approach of Government that has begun to roll out water meters during the Covid-19 pandemic that places the right to water at the centre of the national response; 

  • We further reiterate our call for a rapid escalation of medium- and long-term water solutions as part of the Covid-19 response actions.
  • We continue to call for a comprehensive national approach and plan to address the chronic and persistent shortages of water in Zimbabwe’s communities
  • We further call upon an increased expedition of operational and administrative responsiveness to communities in crisis not only by the constrained Local Authorities but by central government and its applicable national institutions to ensure that citizens are able to access water.

Critical Emerging Issues

Parliament to conduct more public hearings

The Parliament of Zimbabwe has once again announced that it will be conducting physical public hearings throughout the country, on the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill from 6 July to 10 July 2020. While we commend the measures which the institution has put in place, in ensuring that public safety;

  • We urge Parliament to walk the talk ensure strict compliance with the said measures. This draws from lessons learnt during the public hearings for the Constitution Amendment Bill 2, where we witnessed groups over 50 participants being consulted huddled together in one gathering thereby violating the lockdown regulations and exposing communities to the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
  • We further raise concern over the timing of these hearings given the fact that movement restrictions continue to be in force. This presents mobility challenges for citizens who may wish to access the venue. Again, this draws from the experiences of Constitution Amendment Bill 2, as witnessed in Gwanda and Bulawayo, where some women failed to access the venues after they were turned away by the enforcement agents at roadblocks.  

Exorbitant charges for Covid-19 patients by private health institutions

Gravely disappointed to note that exorbitant fees being charged by private health institutions for Covid-19 patients.  This situation is exacerbated by the status quo in the health sector where nurses are currently on strike, and the Government health institutions are ailing as it were. In other words, Covid-19 patients who may require medical attention are therefore left in a quandary, as they cannot afford such exorbitant costs.

  • We therefore call upon the Ministry of Health and Child-Care to ensure that the medical sector is adequately supported in order to ensure that citizens access health care services through affordable and convenient channels.

Restaurants admitting sit-ins and resuming night operations

We note the partial relaxation of lockdown restrictions on restaurants.  This has seen several restaurants advertising today that they will be opening their doors and allowing sit-in patrons at 6pm. On the other hand, it still remains at the full discretion of enforcement officers to demand travel permits from citizens.  These 2 scenarios, point once again, to Covid-19 policy inconsistencies which we have been lamenting over the weeks. 

  • We therefore buttress our calls upon Government to revise and update all the applicable Statutory Instruments regarding Covid-19, in order to inform the citizens accordingly.
  • We also urge restaurants businesses to ensure total compliance with the safety protocols and public health guidelines on Covid-19. 

Outstanding issues

Hunger 

We have been consistently raising the direct correlation between the on-going lockdown on the informal sector and hunger in communities. We have raised with alarm and despair the unacceptable position that of the 1 million citizens targeted for social protection support, only 1 in five persons, has actually received the intended support. We continue to raise alarm on the limitations of urban food security programs, which remain limited in its reach and only being accessed by the same persons who were already being supported prior the lockdown. 

We therefore raise great distress calls and alarm on the rise of cases of malnutrition in pregnant women and children. We note the published reports indicating the rise in malnutrition within the limited time period of the lockdown. 

  • The reports how that 1.1 million women and children will require nutritional assistance due to hunger.
  • 25 priority districts in the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment (ZimVAC) participated in nutrition assessment 
  • We note that 187 242 children have been screened for Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM), of which 306 were admitted and treated, while 241 children have been admitted for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) treatment during the lockdown from 31 March 2020 to 30 May 2020. 

We therefore call upon the Government to: 

  • Respect and uphold section 77 of the Constitution which protects the right to food. 
  • Ensure the wide dissemination of Vitamin A to pregnant women and children. 
  • To aggressively implement and expand the cash transfer system to vulnerable households. 
  • To rapidly unblock the operational and administrative hurdles regarding subsidised mealie meal program. 

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe