Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 192 – WCoZ Situation Report

192 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 7 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 7 919 after 4 new cases were reported. Active cases went down to 1 249.  1 new recovery was recorded. The total number of recoveries stands at 6 441. The death toll still stands at 229. 

We note that our Southern neighbour, South Africa, with whom we share the largest border by traffic and trade, has recorded 1 000 new cases of COVID-19. We also note that yesterday, Zimbabwe recorded the first COVID-19 death since  re-opening of borders, and also recorded its first case of imported transmission.

We call for vigilance and strict enforcement of public health guidelines at all our entry points to ensure minimum risk of imported cases from across the borders.

Emerging Critical issues

Use of public transport

We note the return of commuter omnibuses run by private players. While appreciating that this development will go a long way in easing public transport shortages, we highlight concern over responsiveness to COVID-19 safety protocols and health guidelines. 

Our networks continue to report that some commuter operators, plying long-distance routes, are failing to maintain public health and safety protocols such as physical distancing, and sanitization. 

This raises concerns as such slackening may affect 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 and safety protocols in the public transport system.
  • We urge enforcement agents to ensure that physical distancing is upheld by public transport operators.

 Water shortages

We draw attention to the Auditor General’s report which warns of a looming health crisis in Bulawayo due to water shortages. WCoZ monitoring in all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe, through its networks and structures, reveals that the nation is currently experiencing a water crisis that requires urgent redress. 

Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right for achieving gender equality and sustainable development.  WCoZ further notes that water shortages have negatively impacted on women in the following ways:

  • Increased burden of unpaid care-work as women have to constantly travel long distances in search of water for the washing of clothes, food preparation and household hygiene.
  • Poor sanitation and hygiene, particularly for women and girls during their menstrual cycle.
  • Nursing mothers require more water than anyone else: According to the WHO studies, the basic requirement for a lactating woman engaged in even moderate physical activity is 2.5 litres a day.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Risk of sexual harassment and violence against women while fetching water from undesignated sources. 

We therefore recommend:

  • Long term comprehensive measures to address the water situation.
  • The Government, working with other relevant stakeholders, must ensure that the overall national sanitation and framework is gender-sensitive.

Outstanding Issue 

Access to documentation 

While we appreciate the resumption of operations of the Registrar’s office, particularly on issuing of birth certificates, we are distressed to learn of the new measures that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage put in place to ensure safe operations. 

The Minister indicated that people wishing to obtain birth certificates will have to call the Central Registry first, get vetted online and are given numbers and dates on which they can visit the Central Registry. We raise concerns that such measures are discriminatory and exclusionary. 

Firstly, the Central Registry Offices are not easily accessible to everyone due to long distances which may require to be travelled. 

Secondly, most individuals to do not have resources and capacity to call the Central Registry in order to “book an appointment.” We have already noted how expensive communication and data has become in Zimbabwe. We raise these concerns particularly as we are aware that mothers of newly born babies will be hardest hit by such discriminatory measures, particularly those in the rural areas and other vulnerable groups. In essence:

  • We, therefore, call to order, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, to remind them of section 81 of the Constitution, which provides that every child has the right to the prompt provision of a birth certificate.
  • Government must refrain from placing undue burdens on women and children when the opportunity to transform is placed before them.
  • We continue to call for the retrofitting of critical public service spaces in ministries and government department and re-organising access process in public buildings as a matter of urgency. 
  • We continue to recommend a rapid decentralization of Central Registry services, through establishing Mobile Birth Certificate-issuing clinics in communities to ensure easy access by all citizens. This will also go a long way in decongesting the Central Registry and dealing with backlogs.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

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