Today marks the 24th Day of the Lockdown in Zimbabwe.
Commending the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), in staying vigilant in these difficult times in ensuring realisation and promotion of fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens, particularly on the constitutional rights to food, personal security and liberty. The ZHRC report issued today, further, buttresses calls we have previously made on numerous occasions on the use of unwarranted force by the Police and the demonstrated lack of implementation of personal protective measures by Police officers on duty.
Concerned with the Health sector’s ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on early detection and testing of potentially positive cases. Today’s report on the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate demise of an 82year-old COVID-19 patient at Westend Hospital, raises a lot of questions and only points to the fact that our health system is far from being fully prepared to effectively contain further spread of the disease.
We commend the announcement of the price moratorium on basic goods and a return of prices of goods to prices prevailing on the 25th of March 2020. This action represents a demonstrable actions by government to address the issues of rampant price increases. The moratoriums is commendable as it addresses the basic basket of goods for households such as mealie meal, cooking oil and bread which had become increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible, effectively threatening the ability of citizens to effectively cooperate with the lockdown.
We urge government to establish the applicable taskforce to ensure full compliance of the moratorium and in turn we urge citizens to remain vigilant that the price moratorium is effected and report anomalies to the Consumer Councils of Zimbabwe.
We commend the decision by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement to defer the opening of the Tobacco Floors today, to a date to be further announced, in order to strengthen COVID-19 preparedness of the Tobacco Floors, We look forward to detailed and substantive measures that will serve to support a reduction in the spread of COVID-19.
Critical Emerging Issues
1. Stigmatisation of COVID-19 cases
Deeply concerned with the increased level of stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients and the violation of their Constitutional rights, which we have witnessed recently;
Gravely alarmed by the negative media coverage and framing of stories pertaining COVID-19 patients, in particular the manner in which their names and circumstances are published in the media, with particular emphasis to the recent death;
- We remind the nation that COVID-19 patients have constitutional rights that ought to be upheld at all times.
- We further 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.
We warn all institutions and citizens at large that stigmatisation of persons infected with COVID-19 is not progressive as we have learnt from contemporary history. Stigma if unchecked will ultimately only create deep and lasting damage not only to our social and cultural institutions but will extend to the damage of property and lives.
2. Information and Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Childcare
Appreciating the daily health updates publicized by the Ministry and fully understanding that in a public health emergency such as the one at hand, citizens right of access to information, as provided by section 62 of the Constitution, becomes indispensable;
Concerned with the quality and scant manner in which the Ministry releases the data to the public;
- We urge the Ministry to be consistent, transparent and release in-depth updates which assist the nation to understand where we stand in the COVID 19 response.
- We further urge the Ministry to maintain consistency in reporting data including gender disaggregation. Quality data to the public is crucial as directly mitigates negative perceptions and speculation.
COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated across the world that governments must lead and consider indeed “over communication” to ensure that citizens are active stakeholders to the public response required to reduce the spread of the pandemic and spread lives.
3. Support to Persons with Disabilities
Remaining concerned with the Government’s demonstrated complacency and lack of proactiveness in supporting persons with disabilities;
- We continue to urge Government to take steps and implement measures for supporting persons with disabilities, in responding to the pandemic and also to ensure that special mechanisms are adopted, to lessen their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- We further recommend the designation of Interpreters as essential service, so as to facilitate for the provision for assistance of persons with disabilities at screening points.
4. Access to Education
Appreciating efforts by stakeholders and Government to ensure that school children do not lag behind in terms of school, by optimizing online and virtual learning spaces;
Aware of the lived realities of the majority of school children and students in remote rural areas and children with disabilities who lack access to the information technology and communications equipment , internet and in certain cases may not even be computer literate, as reported by our networks;
- We call for special consideration for the facilitation of education packs to support such vulnerable communities.
1. Access to Water and Sanitation Services
We continue to raise the critical importance of the sustainable provision of bulk safe portable water to communities across the country.
We remain awaiting the announcement of appropriate measures at national level on this matter.
2. Protection of the prison populations
Noting that convicted persons and those on remand are amongst the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 contagion;
Further aware that on a daily basis there are new entrants who are sent to remand prison from the outside world, where they may have been exposed to the virus and remain asymptomatic;
Aware that most of our detention facilities may not be capacitated enough and that social distancing rules may be difficult to enforce.
- We therefore urge Government to urgently and implement a comprehensive crisis plan to cater for the rights, needs and safety of detainees in the COVID-19 era. Paying particular attention to vulnerable detainees such as juveniles, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and those with underlying health conditions.
3. Response to the malaria threat
Gravely concerned with reports on the malaria outbreak which to date, has been reported to have claimed has claimed the lives of over 150 people.
Further concerned that the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is facing battling COVID-19 and the Malaria outbreak
- We urge the Government to respond aggressively to the Malaria outbreak by escalating the spraying programs and provision of treated mosquito nets.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)