The countdown – Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 18

Today marks the 18th Day of the Lockdown in Zimbabwe, with exactly 3 days to go before the lockdown ends. Citizens continue to labour with unanswered questions as they attempt to decipher today’s realities and what life will look like in the aftermath of the lockdown. Again, to date, no clear guidance has been issued by the Government.

Commending the timeous announcements by World Health Organisation ‘6 point guidance’ on when Nations may end a COVID-19 lockdown. This comes at an important time as Zimbabwe at large is currently contemplating on this question.

We applaud the introduction of rapid testing of frontline workers at Parirenyatwa Hospital. Urging Government to ensure, over and above, that these frontline workers are not exposed to the virus, by providing adequate and proper Personal Protective Equipment.

We note commendable efforts by local authorities to stop the further spread of the COVID-19, by embarking on nationwide disinfection of city environs, with Bulawayo, Gwanda and Mutare leading from the front.

Critical Emerging Issues

As of 16th April 2020, we have noted the following critical emerging issues that require urgent redress:

1. Stigmatisation of COVID-19 cases

Alarmed by the level of stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients and the violation of their Constitutional rights, with particular emphasis on the Bulawayo case of patient 15;

Shocked that stigmatisation of Patient 15 is being driven by various institutions and leadership in the country;

Distressed that such actions fundamentally derail progress on the Nation’s collective efforts in fighting the spread of the disease;

Aware of the danger that such stigmatisation if not addressed may lead to the following:

  • Drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination.
  • Prevent people from seeking health care immediately.
  • Discourage them from adopting healthy behaviours.
  • We therefore call upon the Nation at large, to desist from actions and speech that may perpetuate stigma.
  • We urge the Media to practice ethical journalism, and in their reporting to avoid actions that may increase COVID-19 stigma.

We remind the nation at large that Patient 15 is still entitled to the full enjoyment and protection of Constitutional Rights in their completeness.

2. Testing, Tracing and Treatment

Whilst we applaud efforts to decentralize testing to other areas outside Harare;

Concerned however, that the decentralization does not seem to prioritise other areas such as Midlands, Masvingo and Kariba;

Further remaining concerned that the general public has not been updated on the progress on tracing and monitoring of (at least 13 000) returning residents from South Africa and other High Risk Countries who were reported over 2 weeks ago;

  • Calling to the attention of Government, that we have not yet forgotten about these developments and that until the status of monitoring of this group of persons is publicised and supported with clinical testing, the figures of the persons infected with COVID-19 will remain an area of concern for the general public.
  • We thus urge the Government must urgently release to the public domain this much awaited progress report.
  • We also remain awaiting the report from Government of the lockdown vis a viz the use of private airstrips, private charter flights and aerodromes.

3. Aftermath of the 21 -day lockdown

It still remains a cause for concern that the nation is 3 days away from the closure of the announced lockdown and Government has not yet communicated its position.

We remind Government that pandemics and indeed all national processes must secure the support and cooperation of citizens and this requires effective consultation and communication.

We advise Government from the temptation to announce a lockdown on the eve upon which Citizens are preparing to resume their day to day lives. This will leave citizens without the opportunity and capacities to strengthen their own preparedness thereby weakening their compliance will and effectiveness of the lockdown.

In the event that the lockdown is not to be extended, there will be need for a gradual easing of measures and once again potential measures must be communicated to citizens in advance.

With 72 hours from the end of the lockdown, We emphasise the need for a full and comprehensive articulation of the
national plan by the Government of Zimbabwe.

4. Water

Remaining concerned with reports of water shortages in areas such as Bulawayo and Bindura. In particular, reports from our networks indicating that Bindura Municipality has warned residents of water cuts beginning tomorrow due to electricity challenges at the water plant;

Understanding that water and sanitation are critical components in containing the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic;

Recognising that such shortages impact on the burden of unpaid care-work on women and girls;

  • We reinforce our call upon COVID-19 Inter-Ministerial Taskforce and local authorities 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.
  • Provide sanitations supplies to community water management teams to ensure bush pumps are sanitised
    throughout usage routines.
  • Expedite decongesting water points initiative to ensure manning of more water points to improve access to water

5. Safety of Children and Access to Child Justice

Remaining concerned with the growing reports both from our networks and the media indicating violence against children
during this lockdown;

Appreciating that in times of humanitarian emergencies such as the one at hand, there is an increased risk to the safety of children as they may be exposed to paedophiles, brutal beatings and child labour;

  • We reiterate our call upon Government and to actively support mechanisms to provide support to household
    through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct the critical inspections at homes that are reported
    to be at risk and to respond to such risks by
    • Ensuring that helplines for children remain fully functional.
    • Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for survivors.
    • Expanding critical services for children and ensuring accessibility.
    • Ensuring community child protection committees are supported to play their roles as community care workers.

Outstanding Issues

1. Rights of persons with disabilities

Remaining concerned with the lack of prioritisation and urgency in providing support mechanisms for persons with
disabilities in response to this global emergency;

Deeply concerned that Government has not shown much consideration for the needs of persons with disabilities and how
they may be impacted more significantly by COVID-19 and the containment measures put in place;

  • We urge Government to now announce and publicize steps and measures for supporting persons with disabilities
    during the lockdown, the overall COVID 19 Response and also to ensure that special mechanisms are adopted, to
    lessen their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

2. Transparency and Accountability within Social Protection Programs

Gravely alarmed by reports received through our networks of unscrupulous groups and individuals, moving around communities demanding $2 from each household as registration fee for the social protection programs. Particularly reports in Budiriro, Chitungwiza and Kariba;

  • We remind Government that this environment is directly correlated to its failure to date formally provide the
    clear guidelines of how registration for such services is to be undertaken in every province and district.
  • The inability by Government to set out clear well known and easily understandable steps, create and facilitate an
    environment for maladministration, corruption and abuse of citizens.
  • We call upon Government to ensure respect of human rights and urgently ensure the law enforcement agents
    act to stop the abuse of vulnerable persons on Government programs.

3. Social Distancing

Concerned with the growing reports of communities disregarding social distancing in the following categories:

  • Mealie meal queues, as witnessed today at Kuwadzana OK and Makokoba
  • Funerals and other traditional gathering;
  • Playing of soccer with large audiences predominantly in high density suburbs such as Mbare, where they have been conducting matches for what they have termed “Corona Cup”;

We continue to call on Government to reiterate its position on social distancing and public gatherings with the support of applicable and contextualised information that informs and raises awareness with the above communities.

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)

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