Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 122 – WCoZ Situation Report

122 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 29 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 2 879 after 62 cases tested positive today, of which 50 are local transmission cases of nurses and 12 from returnees. With numbers of recoveries up by 283 to a total of 887 and the death toll has risen to 41. May the departed souls rest in peace. We send prayers to the family and loved ones of the deceased.

As the cases of COVID-19 continue to spike, we recommend a change of strategy in terms of communication and messaging. While sadly, the messages around COVID-19, has to date gave away connotations of alarm and fear, we believe that the current tide requires us to embrace the pandemic, and start to amplify conversations of supporting measures for persons with Covid-19, which may include nutritious diet and food plans. More conversations should be held on what a COVID-19 positive person can, or cannot do, besides self-isolation and use of mask. 

Today ZUPCO announced that 9 of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. These alarming developments come at a time when we have been raising concern that the public transport could be a potential hotspot for COVID-19. Especially with reports showing that most of the ZUPCO buses are no longer maintaining public health safety protocols such as physical distancing, sanitization and temperature checks. We continue to call for the strict implementation of public health safety protocols in the public transport system.

We continue to call for Community centric measures to address and stem the spread of COVID-19 in communities and in particular to ensure that residential area communities are enabled and supported to engage positively and actively in stemming the rise of the disease. We remain particularly concerned that measures to address the increase in community transmission are not being actively addressed.

Critical Emerging Issues

Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Maternity

We note the mounting woes within the health sector, particularly on access to sexual and reproductive health rights, and maternity services. What is before us is a women’s rights crisis, which if untamed will lead to the irreversible loss of lives of many women and children. Particularly distressing, is the increase in infant deaths and newly born babies at public hospitals.  Health personnel are on strike due to the deteriorating conditions within the health sector. Deeply distressing are the reports of 7 mothers who paid the price for such conditions, by losing their newly born babies due to delayed treatment. 

We highlight the increased congestion of women awaiting-birth, in maternal shelters as a direct result of lack of access to transport and duly the shelters are increasingly overcrowded which again increase the risk of spread of the COVID-19. No matter the battle the Nation is currently facing, and no matter the budgetary constraints bedevilling Government, some prices are just too high to pay. No woman should ever lose their child in that manner.  This situation clearly exposes how as a Nation we have failed to guarantee the lives of women and the future of the younger generations.

  • We recommend implementation of measures to support women and ensure that they access pre and post-natal care, and reproductive health care services without any impediments due to COVID-19.
  • We continue to call for the active support of maternal health care shelters and resourcing and supporting of maternal care services at this time

Leadership crisis

We continue to 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. 

This is nerve-wrecking, particularly at a time when the Nation is experiencing an unparalleled spike in COVID-19 local transmission cases. Difficult times such as these require real leadership to make tough decisions which will go a long way in flattening the curve;

  • We urge the immediate substantive appointments to fill in the vacant positions within the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which includes other senior positions of technical leadership of the Ministry.
  • We further call for the immediate appointment of gender experts at all levels of the COVID-19 response taskforce teams.

Outstanding issues

Lack of information

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, we recognise the need for adequate information regarding the cases and deaths recorded by the Ministry. This includes gender and age disaggregated data. We emphasize that such data will inform the appropriate responses and actions to be taken by various stakeholders.

  • We urge the Ministry of Health and Child-Care to provide adequate data on COVID-19 statistics, which data must be gender and age disaggregated.
  • We urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to maintain consistency in publicised data particularly as the spike in cases continues to rise.

Management of COVID-19 Bodies and Burials of COVID-19 persons

We remain alive to reports from our networks on the burial guidelines regarding COVID-19 cases.

We highlight the undue stress and negative mental health outcomes that persons being buried in body bags is subjecting communities to.

We highlight the WHO COVID-19 Body Management and Burial Guidelines for COVID-19 persons which seek to strive to ensure that bodies are managed in a manner that does not expose those who are the body to the potential of infection. The burials make specific allowance for Burial or Cremation. These guidelines are in line with the Zimbabwean regulations on Burial and Cremations Act 5:03.

The WHO COVID-19 guidelines further make specific references to cultural rites which may include and contact such as touching and kissing the body are not permitted. Accordingly;

  • We call upon Government to make the public fully aware on the rationale of measures for the burial of persons in body bags.
  • We call upon the government to clarify the measures to be taken during burials to ensure the communities are well prepared in advance.
  • We note that the preparation of the body must be managed by persons who are adequately trained to handle such cases further and supported with sufficient PPE.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe