87 days into the lockdown, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that as at 24 June 2020, the total number of Covid-19 cases had risen to 530 cases.
Commending the Government for supporting Ministry of Health and Child-Care in opening up 650 posts for health workers to adequately staff quarantine and isolation centres.
We however emphasize and underscore that over and above this initiative, the current state of our health sector requires to be adequately capacitated through proper support and care for the health personnel, adequate equipment and machinery.
We remain concerned by wage disputes within the health sector directly and public sector at large, we remain awaiting progress from the Tripartite Negotiating Forum which remains the central dialogue platform for delivering progress of the labour disputes within the country.
Critical Emerging Issues
Response to other health threats
Deeply alarmed and concerned that Zimbabwe is facing a malaria outbreak which has claimed the lives of 279 citizens and had over 306 365 cases;
Aware that in a humanitarian crisis such as the one presented by Covid-19, there is always the potential threat to neglect other health issues and services, by directing all efforts and primary resources towards the crisis;
- We therefore call on Government to provide the necessary support measures to ensure that we do not lose more lives to this disease. Again, this borders on investing in our public health sector.
Water and sanitation
Communities continue to face challenges in accessing adequate water and sanitation. We note that this global pandemic requires increased levels of hygiene and in particular, clean and safer portable water. We highlight the plight of women in Kwekwe, Gweru, Bulawayo and other surrounding areas who have been placed under phenomenal strain, as they seek to assess water through other alternative means.
We raise with concern the 1,500 cases of diarrhoea disease outbreak in Bulawayo which has claimed 9 lives thus far and reiterate the importance of safe bulk portable water in communities as core to the right to life;
- We therefore urge the critical need for the rapid escalation of medium- and long-term water solutions as part of the Covid-19 response actions.
- We therefore reiterate our demand for a comprehensive national approach and plan to address the chronic and persistent shortages of water in Zimbabwe’s communities.
- We call upon an increased expedition of operational and administrative responsiveness to communities in crisis not only by the constrained Local Authorities but by central government and its applicable national institutions to ensure that citizens are able to access water.
We continue to witness worsening economic hardships in communities, both, rural and urban settings due to inflation and the loss of income earning capacity for most households. A visit to the supermarket reveals sharp price hikes of basic commodities such as cooking oil, sugar and flour as the Zimbabwe dollar continues to lose value against the US dollar. Aware that this situation increases the level of vulnerability of already struggling households and will force more and more families to go to bed on an empty stomach, particularly women-led households which fully rely on the informal economy;
- We continue to remind Government, of section 77 of the Constitution, which guarantees every person the right to sufficient food, and places an obligation on the State to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
- We further urge the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and also the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to investigate cases of illegal price hikes of basic commodities.
- Furthermore, we continue to urge the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare to expedite disbursement of food aid and grants to vulnerable communities in a transparent manner, without any political interference
Gendered response in quarantine and isolation centres
Statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Childcare reveal that currently there is a total of 2 019 quarantined persons nationwide. Of these 1025 are women, 858 are men and 136 are children.
It is important to note that women constitute a highest percentage of the quarantined persons. This opens up reflections on gender-specific issues such as sexual abuse, violence and hygiene. It further calls for a gendered responsiveness and preparedness within the centres, in order to ensure security and safeguarding of women and children, who are the most vulnerable sections of the population;
- We reiterate our recommendation on accelerated safeguarding measures within the centres through the integration of Sexual and Gender Based Violence prevention and response initiatives into the Quarantine Centres Management, including training of staff on how to properly service different genders.
- We further recommend establishment of protection Guidelines and Dissemination of information in the 14 National Languages, on sexual and gender based violence within the centres and the help available.
Education and Radio Lessons
We note the roll-out of the radio lessons program. While commending this move as critical in ensuring that pupils do not lag behind, we reiterate the need to ensure that the system is inclusive, and does not exacerbate inequalities by marginalizing rural pupils and those with disabilities.
We further raise concern over the plight of the girl-child and extending burden of unpaid care-work in light of Covid-19. Understanding that these critical issues, will lead to unequal opportunities amongst pupils;
- We query if the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, has set in place monitoring and evaluation strategies to measure the success and practicability of this initiative.
- We further recommend that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education continuously collect disaggregated data and update the Nation on pupils’ access and attendance to the radio lessons.
- We further recommend the data to be gender disaggregated, in order to ensure that girls attend the lessons, and are not consumed with the burden of unpaid care work, within the household.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe