Today marks the 19th Day of the Lockdown in Zimbabwe, with exactly 2 days to go before the lockdown ends. As predicted earlier, in the situation report we issued on 3 April 2020, where we warned of a potential surge of positive cases towards the end of the lockdown, Zimbabwe is now experiencing the reality of that nightmare. We have witnessed a dramatic rise in the COVID-19 cases, in the last week of the lockdown. In the same report, and various that followed, we advised Government of Zimbabwe to prepare and communicate well in advance, guidance on manoeuvring under such circumstances. Less than 72hours before the end of the lockdown, no guidance has been issued yet.
However, appreciating the calls by Government upon the Nation to observe peace and within households and not use the lockdown as an opportunity to perpetuate Gender Based Violence, we remain concerned with lack of practical steps to stop the violence and measures to ameliorate the difficulties encountered by victims of violence.
Whilst we applaud the continued collective efforts by private sector in working towards ensuring that hospitals and frontline workers are capacitated adequately to respond to the pandemic; we remain distressed at the nominal response from Treasury demonstrating the matching supporting of our tax dollars at work.
We continue to commend the introduction of rapid testing of frontline workers, including Police officers in Insiza and other areas. 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.
Critical Emerging Issues
As of 17th April 2020, we have noted the following critical emerging issues that require urgent redress:
1. Child Rights Crisis
Buttressing our previous warning that the pandemic has posed threats to the safety of children in our communities;
Noting that the pandemic, has in various ways, impacted negatively on the lives of all children;
We call the attention of the Government, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders, to the recent report by the United Nations which raises alarm over the lack of protection mechanisms and early warning systems for children during COVID-19;
We therefore reinforce 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 the 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.
2. Selective Application of the Law
Concerned with security and policing agents that do not take into context the reality of the lockdown;
Remaining concerned with the problematic reports of persons in money transfer queues or mobile banking facilities who are harassed and threatened by enforcement officers whilst they are in queues;
Noting that the lockdown has created restricted access to these critical services and very long queues are being experienced by persons of all ages;
Further noting that a visit to Sam Levy Village, paints a different picture, particularly earlier today, where citizens were moving freely, and even defying social distancing, as most of the restaurants such as Pariah State, Pizza Inn, Nandos and Rocomamas, were open and fully operational, with customers even sitting and dining in groups;
- We therefore call for a uniform application of the law without discriminating on any basis.
- We further urge security services not to harass and violate the rights of citizens who are seeking access to essential services, such as those queuing at banking and financial facilities.
3. Vulnerable Populations
Concerned that it is almost a month since the Nation recorded its first COVID-19 positive case; Noting that as we near the end of the lockdown, no public report of vulnerable populations, in particular prisons, Refugee camps and homeless persons.
- We urge the urgent release of the reports.
4. Cash Transfer Pay Outs
Pleased to note reports in the media indicating that Government has rolled out the Cash transfer pay-out, as a relief mechanism for vulnerable communities.
Further noting that according to the reports, the program started around 15 April 2020, with communities in Harare and Bulawayo benefitting first.
We however raise concern that we have received communication from most of our networks in Bulawayo and Harare articulating their exclusion from the program.
These factors bring to bear the critical accountability and transparency that is grossly lacking in the program as we have raised persistently:
- We therefore call upon the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to clarify the selection criteria for beneficiaries of the program.
- We further urge Government to expedite the upscaling and expansion of the program to other areas in all parts of the country.
1. Stigmatisation of COVID-19 cases
Remaining alarmed by the level of stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients and the violation of their Constitutional rights, which we have witnessed in past 48 hours;
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 reiterate our call upon the Nation at large, to desist from actions and speech that may perpetuate stigma.
We continue to urge the Media to practice ethical journalism, and in their reporting to avoid actions that may increase COVID-19 stigma.
2. Aftermath of the 21-day lockdown
It still remains a cause for concern that 48 hours before the end of the lockdown, Government has not yet communicated its position or issued guidance to the Nation.
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.
In developing guidance for the Nation, we urge Government to take heed of the warning by the World Health Organisation that COVID-19 in Africa is spreading from African Capital cities and going into the hinterland. This is particular concerning as this pattern is mirrored in current Zimbabwean context where confirmed cases are rising in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
- We further warn Government against the temptation to announce a lockdown extension on the eve upon which Citizens are preparing to resume their day to day lives. We fear that 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, we recommend a gradual easing of measures and once again, potential measures must be communicated to citizens in advance.
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)