Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 123 – WCoZ Situation Report

123 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, of which 50 are local transmissions. The death toll has risen to 41. To date, 887 recoveries have been recorded.

We continue to call for the publication of gender disaggregated data and consistently in that date. This good practices continues to be inconsistent and this is a critical areas to urgently attend particularly as we are facing increasing cases and the public needs to furnish the public with fully disaggregated and community specific data to strengthen communities’ capacities to protect and prevent the spread of infection. Most importantly to assist the health care workers and scientists to monitor the nuances of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.

We also note the highly irregular timing of the publication of the daily updates which at times does not actually come in on the day. We call for increased operational and administrative efficiency and effectiveness in this regard.

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 highlight the disproportionate negative impact that women face in seeking to access health care services as a direct consequence of government continued de-prioritisation and inattention to the crisis that literally has become a life and death matter.

Critical Emerging Issues

Restrictions in movement and heavy security presence

Reports received today raise concern over increased presence of security personnel, and restrictions on movements of citizens. Most citizens, even those exempted from the restrictions, were turned away from accessing the CBD, particularly in Harare and Bulawayo.

Some of the reports indicate the use of force by security agents in enforcing restrictions. Distressed by the undue risk that women face in such circumstances due to gaps within policy law and practice.

  • We urge the enforcement agents to operate within the parameters of the law, and treat citizens with respect and full respect of their rights as espoused in the Bill of Rights.
  • In the same vein, we call upon the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to stand ready to protect the rights of citizens in these difficult times and ensure that decisions on curfew clearly correspond with the reality and challenges citizens are currently facing, particularly in the public transport sector.
  • We call upon the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to utilise their full mandate to address the gaps in law, policy and practice that are eroding rights and undermining efforts of social cohesion during a critical point in the battle against the COVID pandemic.

Hunger and Social Protection Measures

It is concerning to note that Government has not fully considered the socio-economic welfare of citizens, particularly women whose livelihood is heavily reliant on the informal sector, and domestic work. Appreciating that stern measures are required in order to curb the spread of the pandemic, we reiterate that there should be a balancing act between safeguarding lives and securing livelihoods for vulnerable communities. It is insensitive and insulting, for authorities to disregard the economic vulnerabilities that women have been exposed to, in the time of COVID-19.

  • We urge the rapid escalation of relief to vulnerable households to reach the 1 million households target urgently as the strain on communities is increasingly unbearable.
  • We continue to call upon government to take action and address the shocking rise in malnutrition in infants, young children and pregnant women.
  • We therefore urge prioritisation of the implementation of social protection programs in order to alleviate COVID-19 induced economic shocks suffered by vulnerable households.
  • We recommend a total overhaul of the social protection programs in order to ensure that they fully correspond with basic commodity price hikes and the increase in the cost of living.

Outstanding Issue

 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. Unfortunately, 7 mothers paid the price for such conditions, by losing their newly born babies due to delayed treatment.  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 urge government to ensure the women of Zimbabwe are not subjected to denial of treatment in violation of the Constitution section 76(3).

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe