165 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 9 September 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 7 429. Active cases are now at 1 665, after 41 new cases were recorded. As at 9 September, the death toll stood at 222. A total of 5 542 recoveries have been recorded to date.
Alarmed by growing reports both from our networks and the media indicating violence against children during this lockdown. Appreciating that in times of social upheaval as evidenced by COVID-19 there are increased risks to the safety of children as they may be exposed to paedophiles, brutal beatings and child labour;
- We call upon Government to actively support mechanisms to provide support to household through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct the critical inspections in communities, homes and social spaces frequented by young persons to ensure that youth at risk are rapidly and proactively identified and that such risks are addressed by:
- Ensuring that helplines for children remain fully functional
- Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for survivors
- Expanding critical services for children and ensuring accessibility.
Critical Emerging Issues
Re-opening of schools and COVID-19 preventative measures
As the schools’ open dates draw closer, our networks raise concerns over preventative measures put in place to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers. The open dates have been announced as at 14 September 2020 for those sitting for Cambridge exams, and 28 September for those sitting for ZIMSEC. While we are aware, as reported that during the June-July exams, no COVID-19 transmissions were recorded amongst pupils, we highlight the change in circumstances regarding community transmission cases. Lately, we have experienced spikes in local transmission cases, thus underscoring the critical need to ensure the safety of pupils, teachers and other ancillary staff.
- We therefore emphasize putting in place measures to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. This must include employing the same strategy as that adopted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe and ensuring mandatory testing of all teaching personnel.
Child rights and safeguarding the girl-child
The recent announcement on re-opening of schools calls upon all stakeholders, CSOs and Government to reflect on the plight of the girl-child and her vulnerability in the time of COVID-19. Reports from our networks highlight concerns over the reported increase in adolescent pregnancies and child marriages, which inevitably results in a higher number of girls dropping out of school. Distressed with the devastating consequences of such status quo, particularly on widening the equality gap between boys and girls
- We recommend putting in place early warning systems and recovery mechanisms for adolescent girls during COVID-19.
- We further buttress our call upon Government and to actively support mechanisms to provide support to households through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct critical inspections at homes that are reported to be at risk and to respond to such risks by:
- Expanding critical services for adolescent girls and ensuring accessibility.
- Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for girl survivors.
- Ensuring community child protection committees are supported to play their roles as community care workers.
- Ensuring that helplines for children remain fully functional.
Water and sanitation
Our monitoring continues to reveal that the dire situation on water shortages has continued to hit women hard as they are forced to access the water from unsafe sources, exposing them to untold health hazards, including COVID-19. Our networks throughout the country, especially in Bulawayo have reported lack of sustainable means to access water, due to rationing schemes by Council.
While in April, the High Court of Zimbabwe made a ruling on ensuring access to water by residents, there has been little compliance with the judgement. While initiatives such as bowser water delivery only provide temporary relief, such measures are not the panacea to the problem as they are unsustainable in the long run.
- It is recommended that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, and all local authorities in their respective districts, ensure adequate provision water, through the implementation of short and long-term strategies.
- We further urge the critical need for the rapid escalation of medium- and long-term water solutions as part of the COVID-19 response actions.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)