Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 101 – WCoZ Situation Report

101 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 8 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 885 the country experienced the 5th COVID-19 spike in cases with 98 persons testing positive on July and, of which 47 were local transmission cases.

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.

On Tuesday evening, the nation went to bed with the news that the Minister of Health and Child Care had been fired, the following morning we awoke to reports of on-going arrests and intimidation of health sector workers who are undertaking industrial action with regards to service conditions and wages. 

Accordingly, we continue to receive reports from our networks of despairing patients, seeking to access basic health care and are unable to do so. The health sector value chain in Zimbabwe is broken and women unfortunately, face the brunt as workers, patients, home based care practitioners and citizens.

Amidst the rising spectre of local transmission cases, the WHO announcement that the COVID-19 is now airborne, whilst complacency in respect of proper mask usage, maintenance of social distancing and washing of hands is being increasingly disregarded in public spaces; We note with great distress the leadership crisis currently obtaining in the Ministry of Health and Child Care which is the most critical institution towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.  We highlight the collective voices of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, which, in yesterday’s Press Conference, called for the President of Zimbabwe, President E.D. Mnangagwa to; 

  1. Immediately appoint a woman Minister of Health and Child Care, ensure senior positions of technical leadership of the ministry are filled and appointment of  a gender expert at all levels of the COVID-19 response. 
  2. Communicate the current status quo in relation to the allegations of corruption, subsequent dismissal of the Minister of Health and Child-Care, the status of health personnel at health centres throughout the country.
  3. Reflect and act urgently upon the rights of the patients and workers notwithstanding and review the patients’ charter to ensure its contents and spirit are carried out to the letter in the interests of addressing the immediate needs of women and indeed all the citizenry in Zimbabwe.
  4. Transcend the discourse of arrests and arbitrary unilateral solutions, thus ensuring that the prioritisation of resources and investment into the public health system is urgently addressed as a reflection of his stated political will and commitments, and in line with his responsibilities to the country as a whole

Critical Emerging Issues

Shortage of Blood in Public Health Institutions

The National Blood Services of Zimbabwe announced that it has immediately suspended the credit facility for public health institutions and is now demanding advance payments for blood and blood products in USD$ due to prevailing economic context. This actions represents a spectacular reintroduction of user fees for blood and blood related products which the women rights sector had engaged and worked extensively upon, with the support of other key stakeholders, for the 2018-2019 period as a means to address the high rate of maternal mortality in the country which continues to unacceptably hover at 462 deaths for every 100 000 live births.

  • We remind Government of its commitment to the principle of health for all and the right to health enshrined in the Constitution
  • We call upon Government to take demonstrable actions to ensure that life-saving blood and blood related products are availed to public institutions expeditiously.
  • We call for the urgent intervention of the Government in regards to costs for the blood and other blood related products and to ensure public health institutions have direct undisturbed access to safe clean blood.

Exorbitant charges for COVID-19 patients by Private health institutions

Gravely disappointed to note the 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 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.  There is no clarification whether or not restaurant patrons are required to obtain permits in order to eat out at restaurants.   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 raise 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 ZimVAC) report shows 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 this 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