Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 297 – WCoZ Situation Report

297 days of the COVID Lockdown and as of 19 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 28 675, after 783 new cases were reported. All are local cases, of which 251 cases are from Harare alone while Mashonaland West continues to be the province with the second highest new case tally of 120 cases. Active cases have gone down to 9 740 cases after 738 new recoveries were recorded. This bring the total number of recoveries to 18 110. The recovery rate accordingly moved marginally from 62.3% to 63.2%. The death toll has risen to 825, after 52 new deaths were recorded. 

The 15th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we commend the inclusion of hospitalisation rates in the daily updates which have been an outstanding matter. We note that the current shared details indicate a hospitalisation rate of 283 hospitalised cases with 183 mild to moderate cases, 87 severe cases and 13 ICU cases. We urge the Ministry to continue to share the hospitalisation details and recommend also sharing the percentage of the hospitalisations in provinces as well as part of the graphs shown in the full reports.

Critical Emerging Issues

Exorbitant costs of COVID-19 care

We highlight reports regarding the costs of COVID-19 care. Against a background where public hospitals are barely attending to citizens, there are alleged reports of citizens with COVID-19 symptoms being turned away from public health institutions but deteriorating and allegedly dying afterwards. Citizens are, therefore, faced with nothing more than home based care. 

We decry the resultant privatisation of healthcare as a result of disinvestment in the public health care sector by the state.

We continue to raise issue with the policy of outsourcing treatment of COVID-19 to home based care by holding onto rigid arguments that the majority of COVID-19 cases do not require hospitalisation, and continuing arguments that hospitalisation rates are low and bed capacity is not overwhelmed, yet patients need real support. Nonetheless, we note that in this vacuum, public hospitals are essentially not available thus citizens have no option other to seek help at private hospitals. However there is a crisis as the private healthcare sector is charging exorbitant fees that in our view are unethical in this time of crisis. 

We highlight the example of the Capital City, Harare, which has a public hospital ICU bed capacity of 30 ICU beds. Hospitals in the capital city such as Health Point, Arundel, St Anne’s are charging between US$2 000 and US$5 000 based on the care required. We amplify the public outrage at the costs being charged for admission at an average of US$3 500 for admission. Deposits for care are also being required with doctors in some instances charging US$1 000, prior to other costs being added. Some hospitals require deposits of up to US$5 000 prior to admission in ICU.

Other hospitals and doctors are now offering house calls for asymptomatic and moderately symptomatic patients as well as patients with underlying conditions who need close monitoring. 

  • We call for the intervention of the policy makers in the regulation of costs for access to healthcare. 
  • We call for a stronger approach to develop an integrated healthcare sector where the line between private health care and public healthcare are not as rigid and prohibitive to the securing the right to health for citizens. 

Public access for SGBV survivors to hospitals 

We highlight that globally evidence from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic show that Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is rising rapidly, and that access to services and modes of delivery of services for victims/survivors of this type of violence are changing quickly due to measures to contain the virus at the international, national and local levels. In light of the real time constraints, institutions and individuals seeking to acccess public health care support for SGBV have encountered some difficulties which are creating gaps in our local monitoring and global obligatory reporting. The lockdown has to an extent exacerbated known drivers of intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic violence such as increased stress at the household level, as well as lockdowns, social distancing or self-isolation making it harder for women and girls to escape abuse and access support. 

Regular health, psychosocial support and safe-house services are being overwhelmed. Traditional walk-in services are harder to access or not operating, and phone lines can be unsafe for survivors to access due to abusers controlling information-communication-technology. 

Critical services such as clinical management of rape, healthcare services for survivors of violence in the home or family, sexual and reproductive healthcare, as well as mental health and psychosocial support, may be interrupted, resulting in unplanned or forced pregnancy, unsafe abortions, inadequate prenatal and post-natal care for pregnant and lactating women, physical injuries going untreated, increase in STIs including HIV, self-harm and suicide. Survivors had challenges accessing services at hospitals and in Harare for example most of council clinics were closed. Road blocks and absence of travel letter made it even difficult. These challenges or discourage survivors from seeking help.

  • We urge Government to prioritise access to GBV, especially SGBV, services in public hospitals. This is critical especially at provincial level and district level hospitals and at local clinics.
  • We further urge the publication of data relating to clinic closures – critical to track the number of days that which community health centres have been closed and enhance support services. 
  • We continue to call for expanded access to information on GBV services. This includes publicizing hotlines, toll-free lines and data bases of local public health facilities where women and girls can receive compassionate and sensitive care. This information can be integrated into the national COVID-19 response messages.

Outstanding issues

Detainees and prisoners

We continue to highlight the despairing situation of arrested persons and detainees. 

We are alarmed by reports of alleged lack of sanitizers in police stations and poor sanitary conditions in holding cells. We are alarmed at reports indicating there is inadequate provision and re-issuance of masks in such conditions. We are further, concerned by the outstanding reports of the status of COVID-19 in the detainee and prison population. 

  • We continue to call out Government to provide the nation with an update on the status of COVID-19 in law enforcement officers including in the correctional services.
  • We call for the Prison Inspectorate to conduct a special series of COVID -19 assessment and visits to holding cells and prisons.
  • We continue to await the adoption of robust measure to ensure that this vulnerable population is not subjected to undue hardship.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe