Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 109 – WCoZ Situation Report

109 days of Covid-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 16 July 2020, the total number of Covid-19 cases had increased to 1,362, an alarming increase of 273 cases in one day. These cases include 260 cases which are local transmission cases. Sadly the death toll now stands at 23 following 3 newly recorded deaths. We send our love and prayers to the family and loved ones of the deceased. This jump represents the single largest 1 day jump in cases in the 6th spike of cases in the country. We urge government to strengthen its responsiveness and community testing protocols  and we further remind the government of its stated focus;

  1. The mapping and testing of areas around clusters of cases
  2. A need to increase community surveillance 
  3. The erection of temporary structures at Ports of Entry to house the rising number of returnees into the country 
  4. The strengthening of cross border security checks

We remain vigilant on the quality of implementation of these decisions in the operations and administration of the government institutions and process as these are key areas wherein the rights of women and citizens fall through the cracks.

We highlight with growing alarm at the ongoing and unfolding crisis in the health sector in Zimbabwe as today the Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association (ZSHDA) have formally indicated their intention to strike in two weeks as a result of failing to secure progress in engaging with the Government over serious challenges in procuring and providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and the ancillary undue exposure to Covid-19. 

The senior doctors have outlined that the testing of hospital inpatients remains erratic and the results often take days to come out, which could be attributed to the reason why infections are rising as people infect one another unknowingly leading to poorer outcomes for patients, and even unnecessary deaths.

The senior doctors further highlight that since the promise for more equipment made in March last year (2019), no progress has been made except for the equipment received towards the end of the year. The doctors continued to reiterate their call for the payment of salaries in USD to protect against the erosion of the salaries in a high inflation context.

Accordingly ,we spotlight the grievances below as a means to give full illustration to the context of the health sector crisis as the nation cases of Covid-19 are on the rise; 

ZSHDA Demands:

  1. Make Covid-19 testing readily available in all hospitals so that Doctors can be able to offer seamless services
  2. Provide adequate PPE in hospitals.
  3. Pay Doctors in the USD which is a stable currency which carries predictable buying power. Doctors do not want to be paid in the Zimbabwe dollar again.
  4. Payment(s) in USD should be benchmarked to October 2018 salaries that were in USD. 
  5. Pay clinical allowance that is due to University of Zimbabwe clinicians who are offering services in tertiary hospitals.
  6. Provide drugs, sundries, and equipment in our hospitals.
  7. As doctors need other health delivery colleagues present to be able to function well. They have not been able to report for duties in line with grievances that they have presented to yourselves. The employer should solve their incapacitation so that the health delivery sector be able to resume normal services ethically and professionally. Doctor need nurses, radiographers, pharmacists, and all others to deliver a reasonable service

We call upon Government to make full and effective use of the multiple dialogue platforms within the country to engage progressively  and be responsive in urgently  addressing the health sector crisis. We reiterate our call for government to take the pandemic seriously to ensure that we protect our health sector and save lives.

Critical Emerging Issues

Increase in public gatherings

We continue to note lack of seriousness by citizens including duty bearers and leaders in ensuring compliance with Covid-19 containment regulations. Today in Masvingo, reports reveal the convening of a gathering of over 50 persons, at the instance of the leadership. Furthermore, pictures taken during the meeting, show that those who attended the gathering were not observing social and physical distancing. We raise concern over the growing number of public gatherings being convened by the leadership, lately.  This is particularly alarming, given the worrying increase in cases of Covid-19 local transmission. The current situation, requires minimizing physical meetings and public gatherings as much as possible. We therefore urge those in leadership to lead by example, by ensuring strict compliance with the regulations, instead of cherry-picking when and to whom it should apply. Such actions will lead to lack of public trust, and the citizens querying the legitimacy and truthfulness of the lockdown.   

Public transport and transit points as potential Covid-19 hotspots

Deeply concerned by limited measures to address safety in public transport and in transport transit points to the spread of Covid-19. We remain deeply distressed with the limited measures to revive the mass public transport program of ZUPCO across the country whilst the attempt to bring independent Combi/taxi operators under ZUPCO appears to have collapsed due to sub-markets rates payable to owners of the vehicles.

Deeply distressed at the weak enforcement and weak support given to citizens who are forced, due to the reopening of the economy, to travel on unsafe public transport vehicles and through highly congested transit points.

Reports from our networks continue to point to the public transport as a lurking potential hotspot for Covid-19. There is lack of enforcement of Covid-19 health guidelines in the public transport sector. While reports show that most of the ZUPCO buses are no longer maintaining public health safety protocols such as physical distancing, sanitization and temperature checks.

Exacerbating the situation is the re-emergence of the mshika-shika and other private operators carrying passengers. This raises concern as we experience the spike of Covid-19 cases at unprecedented levels. This weakens the system’s ability to detect potential Covid-19 cases amongst the commuting public, thus exposing the public to infection. 

  • We continue to call for the strict implementation of public health safety protocols in the public transport system.
  • We urge enforcement agents to ensure that physical distancing is upheld by the ZUPCO transport operators.

Outstanding Issues 

Increase in GBV cases

Our networks report an increase in GBV cases, in their communities, particularly in Mutasa, Chivi and Bulawayo. Musasa has reported that it recorded a total of 2 768 GBV cases between 30 March and 13 June 2020. While Government recognized access to GBV services, as essential, our networks report that survivors still face challenges in accessing the service, due to restrictions in movement. Our networks have further highlighted that the full re-operationalization of GBV facilities continues to face challenges regards availability of basic PPE and Covid-19 supplies.

  • We therefore urge prioritisation of resourcing the GBV services and safe shelters.
  • We further urge gender integration in the planning and implementation of the Covid-19 preparedness and response measures. 

Safeguarding women’s and girls’ rights in the time of Covid-19

We continue to bring to the fore, safeguarding women’s and girls’ rights, during Covid-19. This is anchored on adequate representation of women in decision-making position with the Covid-19 response structures. Women’s solutions should be informed by women’s experiences and lived realities. We therefore highlight lack of adequate women’s representation, and provide the following recommendations. 

  • Publication of analysed sex and age disaggregated data by Government on the composition of the Covid-19 taskforce teams throughout the country.
  • A gender lens 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.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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