Globally, covid-19 pandemic continues to spread in unprecedented ways, claiming lives and militating against social and economic progress by affecting the health and daily livelihoods of citizens. This pandemic, if not curbed, threatens the attainment of the global agenda, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as evidenced by the over 69,526 people who have been deceased and over 1,032,917 cases. The world is still grappling with surging new cases and other unconfirmed cases.
Today, the 7th of April 2020 marks the 9th day since Zimbabwe effected a national lockdown as part of the reactionary measures to curb the wide spread corona virus disease, abbreviated Covid-19 pandemic. Declared a national disaster on the 17 March 2020, Covid-19 has registered 10 confirmed cases, 1 death and 371 tests, according to official government reports, which could be lower than the actual, based on limited number of people tested compared to the country’s population and proximity of the country to highly exposed countries.
The Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs) positively notes the measures put forward by the government, aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, including but not limited to inessential travel bans and closure of entry ports, screening, 21-day self-quarantine for returning residents, physical distancing and ultimately the 21-day lockdown together with additional attendant measures. The commitment to limit the exposure to Covid-19, expressed by the majority of the country’s citizens thus far is indeed progressive, despite the prevalent economic woes which makes it difficult for the largely informal economy to sustain livelihoods in the absence of social safety nets especially for women, youth and the elderly.
Regular situational updates by members of the ACBOs however reveal grave concerns regarding the following:
- A wide information gap on Covid-19 awareness and safety measures for citizens to protect themselves still exists
- In Mashonaland Central, unidentified people are moving around registering details of community members for anticipated distribution of government aid
- The criteria used to identify those eligible for the Cash Transfer Programme by government is not open and communities are questioning its transparency
- Provinces do not have functional Covid-19 testing facilities and health workers are complaining of poor working conditions
- Clinics and hospitals have stopped attending to other health needs which are not Covid-19 related, putting the lives of many citizens, especially women, in danger
- Police officers on duty do not have the necessary protective equipment yet they are arresting people and treating them in ways that increase their vulnerabilities to contracting/spreading the virus
- In Manicaland, Matabeleland, Mashonaland East and Masvingo, police use violence, arrested citizens and confiscated wares to include vegetables from informal traders. In some instances, the wares were fed to roaming livestock and/or destroyed This was totally uncalled for.
In light of these violations, the ACBOs urgently calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to:
Uphold Transparency and Accountability for Citizen Agency in fighting COVID-19
- Ensure that every community is provided with adequate information that tells them everything they need to know to prevent themselves and at the same time play a critical, role in curtailing the spread of Covid-19
- Publicly declare and fully account for all Covid-19 related in-kind and material support received from domestic and international sources to include the Alibaba Foundation, African Sun, USAID, Chinese firms and the Global Fund among others
- Ensure that there is full transparency regarding any engagement process with the private sector players on the resuscitation and/or renovation of health facilities to work as centres for Covid-19 cases.
- Avoid using the advent of Covid-19 to perpetuate the marginalization of vulnerable groups in our local communities and instead take it as an opportune moment to reflect and address not only the symptoms but the root cause of our dysfunctional health and broader social-services delivery system.
- Ensure the provision of adequate portable water supplies in all communities countrywide in order for the Covid-19 hygienic measures to be pragmatic
Uphold efficient healthy standards and rights of health professionals
- Comply with the Abuja Declaration which requires states to allocate at least 15% of the national fiscus towards health and ensure that all public health facilities are fully functional with the requisite modern equipment, affordable and accessible to all, in line with Section 76 of the country’s constitution.
- Ensure that, as a matter of urgency, all health professionals, civil servants and other supporting personnel who are at the forefront of handling Covid-19 cases are not victimised, sufficiently remunerated and their working conditions conducive for them to carry out their work effectively in line with Covid-19 measures
- Intensify surveillance mechanisms aimed at early detection of suspected cases and hence limit the further spread of such
- Ensure that functional screening and laboratory testing facilities are indeed spread beyond the country’s major cities, Harare in particular, to the rural, farming, mining and re-settled communities, which host and currently resident to the country’s majority. Fully functional and devolved local health facilities are better placed to deal with Covid-19.
Uphold peace and citizens’ rights
- Ensure that members of the police deployed to enforce the 21-day lockdown are conversant with basic information on Covid-19, observe physical distancing by not congesting their trucks and have sufficient protective clothing to avoid them acting as carriers to their family members and communities they interact with.
- Ensure that the police and soldiers deployed to enforce the Covid-19 measures do not use violence and instead uphold peace and respect the fundamental socio-economic and civil-political rights of all Zimbabweans
The ACBOs firmly believes that with the necessary political will and engagement with the citizens, implementation of the aforementioned recommendations is possible and will curb the spread of Covid-19, restore hope and yield positive outcomes for the betterment of the country.
Source: Alliance of Community Based Organisations (ACBOs)