136 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 12 August 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases had increased to 4 893 confirmed cases after 75 new cases tested positive of which 74 are local transmission and 1 is a returnee. 76 new recoveries have been recorded, and the death toll stand at 122 a jump 18 deaths from 104 deaths.
We urge increased testing to be undertaken and reduction in currently delays of persons reporting as much as 14 days waiting for results. This creates real skewed perspectives of the state of COVID-19 in the country.
We commend the Ministry of Health and Child Care for intensifying the messaging on COVID-19, particularly on raising awareness and sharing tips on how persons and communities at large can successfully deal with the reality of COVID-19 existing amongst us, including lifestyle, diet and self-care.
Such messaging is refreshing and helps boost persons’ hope and faith in overcoming the COVID-19 adversary. We believe that the stage which the nation has reached in terms of local transmission cases, requires this kind of trajectory in ensuring that communities are well prepared to deal with the disease, and to also take care of their loved ones.
Critical Emerging Issues
Stigma and discrimination
As COVID-19 continues to plough through local communities, we witness an increase in social stigma and discriminatory behaviours against people diagnosed with COVID-19 and those perceived to have been in contact with the virus, including health care personnel. We note that stigma can undermine social cohesion and drive people to hide the illness in order to avoid discrimination. This may result in the disease likely spreading as people fail to seek immediate medical attention.
- We therefore recommend that stakeholders, community leaders and Government, intensify efforts in meaningfully engaging at the community level, with citizens, including people who have recovered from COVID-19, with their consent, to lead in increasing awareness and reducing stigma and discrimination.
- Public transport challenges
As ZUPCO continue to enjoy monopoly over the public transport sector during the lockdown, communities continue to face challenges over accessibility of public transport.
Reports from our networks reveal that transport challenges are forcing citizens to utilise illegal and non-regulated modes of transport such as mshika-shika, where public health guidelines such as use of masks and hand sanitization are not followed. Noting that such practices pose a potential risk of COVID-19, we recommend comprehensive measures to mitigate this challenge, including:
- The exemption of private commuter omnibuses to operate under a regulated manner during COVID-19, ensuring that public health guidelines are adhered to.
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.
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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe