Today marks the 14h Day of the Lockdown, and as the nation is about to commence the final week of the 21 Day lockdown, we grapple with many painful realities and unanswered questions regarding the aftermath of the lockdown. To date various questions have been asked regarding the provision of quality and appropriate essential services and required basic products in the fight against COVID-19. The persisting failure to roll out mass provision of soap and or hand sanitizers in communities and to both community and formal healthcare workers does not inspire confidence in the Government of Zimbabwe national preparedness and response as coordinated by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The provision of personal protective equipment is still being rolled out and has yet to reach all healthcare centres including isolation and treatment centres along the devolved value chain of the health sector at half the lockdown timeframe.
On the economic front, at household levels, the day to day realities of citizens do not seem to receive progressive economic policy and social protection support. The inability to set out measures addressing matters pertaining to rent and rentals in a country were public housing in nominal is a glaringly inadequate position to take.
In the same breath economic measures to address job security remain outstanding. Reports that some private sector companies have begun move to send employees on forced leave with some even going further as retrenchments. Government pronouncements on salaries for private sector workers without including guidelines to offer support to those workers violate workers’ rights. For the majority of the citizens who are operating in the informal sector continue to ask for a clear roadmap on COVID19 to better plan their ability to navigate the devastating impacts of the lockdown.
Government must therefore provide the nation with, not only answers to the above questions, but working solutions too, to alleviate anxiety amongst the people of Zimbabwe. This calls for Government to urgently communicate its position and preparedness for the possibility that Zimbabwe may experience a surge prior to the end of the lockdown and or Post the Lockdown Period. Therefore, the roadmap to stopping the spread of COVID-19 must be clearly well-articulated and understood by the country at large, to ensure full cooperation and support by citizens towards one goal. Once again, mass testing is the only action that can assist Government and policy makers in reaching and undertaking the appropriate decisions.
This Easter weekend, We also commend the Churches for supporting compliance with the lockdown particularly as Easter is a key religious holiday for the population of Zimbabwe which has an 85% Christian population with 65% of those regularly attending Church services.
Critical Emerging Issues
As of 12th April 2020, we have noted the following critical emerging issues that require urgent redress:
1. Decentralization of Testing outside of Harare
The functionality of the Provincial and District COVID-19 Taskforce teams is commendable. The marshalling of both elected official and public sector personnel in the provincial and district Taskforce teams is particularly commendable.
- We call for increased operational and financial support to Local Authorities who are operating in extremely complicated administrative and operating spaces and continue to make efforts to engage with communities, churches, and social institutions to prepare their respective communities towards a comprehensive response to the scourge of COVID-19.
- Concerned about disbursement delays to key institutions we call upon disbursing authorities to expedite their processes in order to facilitate a true rapid response.
- We call upon the National Taskforce to support their internal teams and provide practical resources on time and support the practical readiness of communities on the ground right across Zimbabwe.
- Aware that COVID-19 is a decentralized infection which will not affect those in Harare alone, the present reports do not give confidence to communities around the country on the ability of citizens nationwide to be able to receive adequate testing and treatment services;
Noting numerous reports indicating plans to decentralize testing facilities around the country;
- Concerned by the delay in completing the upgrading of such healthcare centres and aware that delayed testing, may result in delayed access to treatment and may further exacerbate domestic transmission of COVID-19;
- We therefore urge expediting testing in real time in Matebeleland North, Matebeleland South, Bulawayo, Midlands, Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West, as the virus transcends regional boundaries.
- Noting that research has shown that COVID-19 may exhibit similar symptoms to Cold/Flu cases, and while it may seem trite, Upscaling clinical testing for COVID-19 is necessary so as to assure the public, that Zimbabwe has the capacity to determine COVID-19 vs Flue/Colds, particularly if people will begin to flood the call centre or community health centres.
2. Procurement of Personal Protective Equipment
Reiterating the need to escalate procurement processes of the equipment and products required for testing, tracing and treating COVID-19, particularly as it is clear that there are rising global procurement challenges regarding the same; Gravely aware of the challenges currently being faced by frontline workers and community COVID-19 taskforces;
Appreciating that the Government has begun to expand testing to isolation centres in various provinces and also to isolation centres in Harare, Bulawayo and Buffalo Range;
- We continue to reiterate our call to the testing to the returning residents who are allegedly being monitored by government,
- We emphasize on the urgent need to procure Personal Protective Equipment to ensure the safety of our health workers,
- We draw the attention of the Government to the work in South Korea and Senegal, which countries have developed rapid testing kits which are easy to use and easily accessible.
1. Food distribution programs
Alarmed by reports received through our networks, regarding the politicisation of food aid and programs in communities. We remind the Government that every citizen of Zimbabwe, regardless of political affiliation has been severely affected by the lockdown, and is facing hunger. Aware that hunger and lack of food security for vulnerable households significantly threaten the ability of citizens to cooperate and adhere to lock down; Noting that access to mealie meal program led by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, has brought into the program the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers’ Association and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, We remain vigilant to monitor the implementation of the program beginning on Tuesday the 14th of April 2020.
- In the meant time however we urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police to actively step in to support supervise queues in Communities regarding the access to the subsidized maize.
- We also reiterate the urgent need for the COVID-19 Inter-Ministerial Taskforce and Government at large to publicize food aid programs put in place for vulnerable communities and to expedite the roll out of such programs in a non-partisan manner.
Recognising that many reports continue to indicate challenges faced by women in accessing water, particularly at water sites and communal boreholes, we continue to call upon COVID-19 Inter-Ministerial Taskforce to urgently and equitably announce and implement practical steps to provide bulk clean safe water to communities facing extraordinary lack of water and sanitation services. Above that, to enforce the following measures where applicable:
- Deployment of police officers at Communal Water Points urgently to supervise the water point, reduce gender-based violence and also enforce social distancing at these points.
- Provide sanitations supplies to community water management teams to ensure bush pumps are sanitised throughout usage routines.
- Deployment of Police at bulk water deliveries points to ensure social distance at water points
- Expedite decongesting water points initiative to ensure manning of more water points to improve access to water
This SITREP is develop by and through the collective network of organisational and individual members of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe who are engaged at community levels to national levels in the COVID19 Zimbabwe response.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)