Who is taking up space at the Covid-19 Response table?
102 days of Covid-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 8 July 2020, the total number of Covid-19 cases had increased to 885 the country experienced the 5th Covid-19 spike in cases with 98 persons testing positive on 8th July and, of which 47 were local transmission cases.
As we have surpassed the 100-day mark on the Covid-19 lockdown, we intensify our quest to ensure that women’s voices are not muffled, and gender equality is not shelved while the Nation directs its efforts towards fighting Covid-19. The pandemic in itself, has presented not only an unprecedented health crisis, but an economic one too. We are therefore seized with the responsibility to ensure that the pandemic does not result in reinforcing gender stereotypes of positioning women on the margins of decision making, making women’s role and participation invisible and all forms of discrimination resulting in a gender equality crisis as well.
A brilliant starting point is a closer look at the Nation’s Covid-19 and Emergency Responses taskforces at all levels, which include District, Provincial and National levels. Statistics show that the Nation’s response taskforces are devastatingly male dominated. Previously, we shared the embarrassing statistics for the Mutare taskforce, which revealed a bigger problem of gender imbalance in the Provincial and District Taskforces. We went further to ask the fundamental question: If women are not adequately represented in the taskforce teams, who is taking their seat at the table to negotiate on their behalf and to ensure that women’s rights are appropriately addressed and prioritised? The effects of poor women’s representation in the Covid-19 Response teams, have manifested in Government’s and decision-makers’ failure to adequately respond to the specific needs of women and girls during Covid-19, for example in Quarantine and isolation centres. In addition, this has also led to the failure by decision makers in the Taskforces to collect sex- disaggregated data, in order to inform policies and gender sensitive Regulations on Covid-19.
Today, we reveal further shocking statistics, from a Rapid Gender Analysis on the composition of Covid-19 Provincial and District Task-forces, which was conducted by one of our stakeholders:
|Number of Females
|Number of Males
With this in mind, we recommend the following:
- Publicization of analysed sex and age disaggregated data by Government on the composition of the Covid-19 taskforce teams throughout the country.
- A gender responsive approach to all Covid-19 preparedness, response and recovery efforts by Government, Parliament, Decision-makers, local authorities and other stakeholders.
- Implementation of Constitutional provisions, particularly, sections 17, 56 and 80, which speak to gender balance, and equality in representation in all spheres of the Zimbabwe society.
- Promulgation of a Statutory Instrument facilitating mandatory gender balance in the Covid-19 Taskforces at National, Provincial and District Levels.
- Inclusion of more women’s rights organisations in the taskforce teams.
Critical Emerging Issues
Leadership crisis amidst Covid-19
We continue to note with great distress the leadership crisis currently obtaining in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which is the most critical institution towards the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. This is nerve-wrecking, particularly at a time when the Nation is experiencing an unparalleled spike in Covid-19 local transmission cases, and we have approximately 20 health workers testing positive for the virus in one single day. A time like this requires real leadership to make tough decisions which will go a long way in flattening the curve.
We therefore intensify highlight the collective voices of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, which, in yesterday’s Press Conference, called for the President of Zimbabwe, President E.D. Mnangagwa to urgently address the leadership crisis and vacuum in the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Bearing in mind, the statistics on female representation in cabinet, public administration leadership and Covid-19 Response leadership Structures;
- We urge the appointment of a female Minister of Health and Child Care, and other senior positions of technical leadership of the Ministry.
- We further call for the immediate appointment of gender experts at all levels of the Covid-19 response taskforce teams.
Protection of healthcare workers and the rise of Covid-19 cases
Statistics on Covid-19 cases continue to rise. In a disturbing development, 18 Health personnel at United Bulawayo Hospitals, tested positive for Covid-19 after exposure to an infected patient. This comes barely 2 weeks, after 14 nurses at Mpilo Hospital tested positive for Covid-19, following exposure to a Covid-19 patient. These shocking developments exposes the lack of preparedness by our Health system. Over 100 days, since the nation recorded its first Covid-19 case, endless calls have been made on Government to ensure the safety of frontline and health-workers through the provision of adequate PPE.
- We therefore continue to make clarion calls upon Government to fulfil the Constitutionally protected right to health for health workers by ensuring that they are not negligently exposed to Covid-19.
- We further recommend preventative measures such as training of health workers on handling Covid-19 patients
Shortage of Blood in Public Health Institutions
The National Blood Services of Zimbabwe announced that it has immediately suspended the credit facility for public health institutions and is now demanding advance payments for blood and blood products in USD$ due to prevailing economic context. This actions represents a spectacular reintroduction of user fees for blood and blood related products which the women rights sector had engaged and worked extensively upon, with the support of other key stakeholders, for the 2018-2019 period as a means to address the high rate of maternal mortality in the country which continues to unacceptably hover at 462 deaths for every 100 000 live births;
- We remind Government of its commitment to the principle of health for all and the right to health enshrined in the Constitution
- We call upon Government to take demonstrable actions to ensure that life-saving blood and blood related products are availed to public institutions expeditiously.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe