110 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 17 July 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 1,420 after 58 new cases tested positive, of which 48 are local transmissions. We note the death of 1 young man today of the age of 19 in Bulawayo, we send messages of comfort to his family and loved ones. Zimbabwe now has a reported death toll of 24.
We note the announcement by the Zimbabwe Republic Police who have stated that, with immediate effect, the ZRP will be strengthening their enforcement of COVID-19 measures. We note the concern raised by police of the numbers of persons arrested for failing to wear masks, making unnecessary trips and in unnecessary gatherings.
However, we remain concerned by the approach of policy makers and law makers, in regards to the COVID-19 regulations themselves, which are disconnected from sector operational realities, contain significant loopholes and insufficient guidelines to the generality of Zimbabweans. In this context, it creates conditions conducive to undue discretion to enforcement officers, who have been seen to unevenly exercise their mandate.
- We call upon Government to resist the temptation to have an overly securitised response to the increase of COVID-19 cases.
- We recommend that as the COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Government makes an effort to review the COVID-19 regulations, to adjust the applicable guidelines and give increased guidance to society in order to improve current efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Further we raise our concerns, following several announcements by Government, regards its intention to “tighten the lockdown”, however we are still awaiting the said announcement.
- We advise against the trend of ambushing citizens and publicizing such measures at last minute, on ‘with immediate effect’ basis.
- We urge timely announcements so as to avoid causing citizens unnecessary inconveniences, at the mercy of enforcement agents.
- We urge Government to strengthen its governance practice culture in this regard urgently as the pandemic requires the active support of citizens.
We highlight the communities in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province who, based on our network reports, are taking powerful grassroots actions to support one another and assist their respective communities to report to health centres and report for screening and testing of COVID-19.
- We commend the community drive to increase community testing.
We commend the launching of an investigation, by the Medicines Control Association of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) into the shortage of family planning pills which appear to be ending up in the South African market despite chronic shortages of the products here is Zimbabwe. We remain alert and alive to the conduct of this investigation and call for the expedited response on the shortages of the products in Zimbabwe which is causing untold hardships on women.
Critical Emerging Issues
Pregnancies in adolescent girls
We raise to the fore the issue of increased reports from our networks, of increased cases of pregnancies in adolescent girls as the COVID-19 crisis continues to escalate in the country. Continuing to reiterate the unmet need to access sexual reproductive health rights and services adequately for adolescent girls,
Decrying the stigmatisation suffered by adolescent girls seeking to access accurate and adequate information on sexual reproductive health rights and services.
Concerned further, by the increased vulnerabilities faced by adolescent girls in communities at large. Noting that nearly 1 in 10 adolescent girls (age 15-19) give birth every year while many die or are injured during childbirth.
Concerned by the context that girls in primary schools face greater risks of pregnancies in comparison to secondary schooling girls (37% as at 2019) we are highlighting the exacerbation of vulnerabilities raised by the COVID-19 lockdown in communities for girls.
- We call for stronger measures to provide mobile clinics and community based health care workers to support adolescent girl’s access to sexual reproductive health rights and services.
- We call for the activation of measures to extend protection of young girls already in marriage during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- We call for vigilance against the rise of child marriages during the COVID-19 lockdown.
- We call for mandatory sentencing framework for rape.
Abscondment from quarantine centres
The statistics of returnees absconding Government-run quarantine centres, continue to soar. We urge the authorities to investigate the security activities within the centres which make it possible for patients escape.
- We call upon Government to reinforce and strengthen security systems at quarantine and isolation centres.
In addition, noting from the reports, that some of the returnees in the quarantine centres, may be persons of interest or criminal offenders, we continue to emphasize the need 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 therefore recommend accelerated safeguarding measures within the centres through the integration of SGBV into the Quarantine Centres Management, including training of staff on how to properly service different genders.
Hunger and delays in implementing social protection measures
We have been consistently raising the direct correlation between the on-going lockdown on the informal sector and hunger in communities. We have raised with alarm over the unacceptable position that, of the 1 million citizens targeted for social protection support, only one in five persons, has actually received the intended support.
In the same breadth, we note the increases in prices of basic commodities, and failure by Government to enforce the price moratorium, which was announced in April.
This has resulted in households’ exposure to food insecurities, further exacerbated by loss of income due to the lockdown.
- We therefore query policy measures put in place by Government to ensure that citizens access basic commodities at affordable prices during COVID-19.
- We continue to raise alarm on the limitations of urban food security programs, which remain limited in its reach and only being accessed by the same persons who were already being supported prior the lockdown.
- We recommend the expedited implementation of social protection programs for all vulnerable households in the time of COVID-19.
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-market 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 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe