Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 189 – WCoZ Situation Report

189 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as at 4 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 7 888 after 3 new cases were reported. Active cases went down to 1 301. 32 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries stands at 6 359. The death toll still stands at 228, as no death has been recorded in the last 24 hours. 

We note that in the past week, most schools re-opened amidst various challenges, which include lack of PPE for learners and their teachers and failure to report for duty by most teachers. Moreover, most schools have experienced water shortages, while on the other hand, Government resolved to bar from opening schools that could not provide water to learners and staff. We, therefore, emphasize putting in place effective measures to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. We further reiterate that the duty to ensure the progressive realisation of the right water lies with Government and cannot be delegated. 

We continue to reiterate the confusion arising from both the mass messaging and implementation of the re-opening of land borders. We note in particular confusion arising from Chirundu and Beitbridge Border Posts. We note the reports of travellers in Chirundu seeking to transit to South Africa facing real challenges at the border and unable to proceed. We further note the discrepancies on the operational status of Beitbridge Border Post, particularly to Zimbabweans seeking entry to and from South Africa and the contradictory public statements on the current position and processes. 

We reiterate the matter of the high cost of COVID-19 tests (USD 65) which have become a practical economic barrier to the resumption of economic activities for the majority of Zimbabweans who rely on cross-border trade to make a living. We call for a concerted effort to reduce costs of testing and to officially engage our respective neighbours and implement clear coordinated responses to the reopening of Southern African economies to the betterment of its citizens.

Critical Emerging Issues 

The rise in Gender Based Violence 

We are concerned with the alarming increase in Gender Based Violence cases in Zimbabwe, as reported by the Zimbabwe Republic Police today. This buttresses the findings of the research commissioned by WCoZ commissioned on the state of GBV, which revealed the following statistics:

  • 43% increase in reports of violence compared to May 2019 
  • 74% increase in reports of violence from the preceding month April 2020
  • 43.8% increase in physical violence
  • 80.3% increase in emotional violence
  • 42.4% increase in economic violence 

Further to that, early in May the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs revealed that psychological or emotional abuse has been the most recorded form of Gender Based Violence in Zimbabwe since the beginning of the lockdown. 

Studies have also shown that psychological stress and traumas in dealing with COVID-19, the lockdown and economic pressures, have also contributed to the increase of GBV cases. This shows the need to put in place mental wellness and psychological support for families and households as part of the COVDI-19 National Response. We therefore recommend the following;

  • Prioritisation of mental health wellness and psychological support in the time of COVID-19. We commend the efforts to strengthen access to mental health care support to COVID-19 patients by the Ministry of Health and Child Care through the development of a “psychological first aid kit” which offers basic psychological support and the screening of persons showing strain and signs of mental health challenges We urge the application of the same measures towards households and families. 
  • 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 awareness raising and support services for survivors of Gender Based Violence in the time of COVID-19.
  • Government to create and facilitate stronger solid community base for the welfare and protection of women and children, during emergency situations and recovery planning.
  • We reinforce our recommendations to stakeholders, CSOs and Government of Zimbabwe to urgently to implement a dedicated ring-fenced budget to increase domestic funding for national GBV response.

Violence against children

Noting an increase in media reports of untold horrendous acts of violence committed against children within households, usually by their guardians or loved ones, we recall the report issued earlier in March by the United Nations, raising alarms over the lack of protection mechanisms and early warning systems for children during COVID-19.  

We are only beginning to witness the consequences now, albeit in very painful ways;

  • We recommend that Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare activate a proactive process of identifying and providing support to vulnerable children and families.
  • We urge Government to invest in key services for children, in health and nutrition, education and protection against violence are effective and direct means to reduce the occurrence of child labour in our communities.
  • We call upon Civil Society Organisations, stakeholders and Government to collectively support mechanisms to provide support to household through the deployment of Social Welfare officers to conduct the critical inspections at homes that are reported to be at risk and to respond to such risks by :
    • Ensuring that helplines for children remain fully functional, 
    • Prioritising funding shelters and other places of safety for children, 
    • Expanding critical services for children and ensuring accessibility,
    • Ensuring community child protection committees are supported to play their roles as community care workers.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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