135 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 11 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 4 818confirmed cases after 70 cases tested positive of which all are local transmissions. 20 new recoveries have been recorded, and with the death toll at 104 it effectively means no deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours.
We commend the update in format for reporting on COVID-19 to the public by the Ministry of Health and Child care. We commend the efforts to disaggregate data by age and gender. We commend the further breakdown of overview of transmission cases by country the demonstrable effort to share the COVID-19 analysis with the general public. The role of the Ministry of Health and Child Care in providing critical information to citizens is a crucial part of informing not only frontline health care workers but also the citizens who are the greatest players in determining the capacities of the country to effectively stem the rise of the COVID-19 tide. We call for consistently in this regard and encourage the publication of public health sector readiness including matters pertaining to hospitalisation rates, the testing capacity of the country across the provinces, the stores and distribution of medical stocks and PPE’s.
Critical Emerging Issues
Protecting and supporting adolescent girls
Our networks in different grassroots networks continue to raise distress over the increasing rate of gender-based violence, and the need to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in adolescent girls. Noting the high probability of adolescent girls’ exposure to sexual exploitation, and child marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic. In mitigating these risks, and developing early warning systems, we recommend the following:
- Government agencies, Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), Social Welfare Department, and civil society organisations to prioritise strengthening reporting mechanisms, awareness raising and support services on protecting adolescent girls including prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse at water points and in access to social protection services such as food aid.
- Government to create and facilitate stronger solid community base for the welfare and protection of children, particularly adolescent girls, during emergency response situations and inclusion to inform recovery planning.
Security and crime
We remain concerned with reports from our networks indicating an increase of crime in their communities. Particularly, in Harare, Bulawayo and Chinhoyi where our networks have submitted reports of cases of robberies and theft targeted at women.
- We note that an increase in crime may break public trust, leading to community unrest under COVID-19.
- We therefore buttress our call upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police to strengthen securitization of COVID-19 responses, with the sole intention to curb crime and violence against women. In doing so, we urge the Police to uphold citizen’s constitutional rights.
Provision of Psychosocial Support to affected communities
As COVID-19 gains foothold in communities, we continue to note with distress the levels of trauma experienced by personnel in the healthcare service and persons screened for COVID-19 and their loved one as there are tested, await and receive results.
- We note that the failure to address the chronic counselling needs, fuels stigma and negative social behaviour and practices;
- We therefore continue to call upon the Government to deploy social workers and community case care workers to address heightened household and community level need for psychosocial support and strengthened social cohesion practices.
Illegal entry points
Our networks have been noting COVID-19 related funerals within their rural communities. Of concern is the observation that relatives of the deceased travelling from as far as neighbouring countries such as South Africa, without really going through mandatory quarantine. One such report has been noted in Gokwe. Such growing reports of returnees who are utilising illegal entry points, have caused panic among communities, as they fear the risk of infection.
We remain concerned with lack of security at various illegal entry points, which may expose communities to the to the risk of COVID-19, as returnees who utilise such illegal entry points are not subjected to testing.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)