Zimbabwe Lockdown: Day 193 – WCoZ Situation Report

193 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 now stands at 229. 

We note with alarm the Government Policy to employ junior doctors into military service, prior to being employed in the health sector. We raise alarm at the Health Services Board (HSB) letter revealing that Treasury had granted the HSB permission to appoint 407 Junior Resident Medical Officers on condition that some of them were appointed under the Defence Forces Service Commission. We are distressed further that the HSB has indicated 230 Junior Medical Officers undergoing final examination have since agreed to be absorbed into service upon successful graduation.

This policy represents the militarisation of the health sector and direct intimidation of the junior doctors. We are deeply concerned at the messaging and potential impact of such a policy upon the rights of women to access equal opportunities, to the right of association, labour rights and economic rights.

  • We continue to call upon the Government to engage sustainably and progressively to address the drivers of industrial action against poor salaries and working conditions.

Emerging Critical Issues

Violence against children

We continue to note an increase in media reports of untold horrendous acts of violence committed against children within the household, usually by their guardians or loved ones. We draw attention to the report issued earlier in March by the United Nations, raising alarm over the lack of protection mechanisms and early warning systems for children during COVID-19.  

  • We recommend the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to 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 and 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.

Stigma and discrimination

Concerned with reports of 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. Noting that stigma undermines social cohesion and drives people to hide the illness in order to avoid discrimination thus resulting 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. 
  • We continue to call for the publication of the long outstanding national tracing report to account for the value chain of traced, tested and treated persons.

Outstanding 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 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 safety protocols in the public transport system.
  • We urge enforcement agents to ensure that physical distancing is upheld by public transport operators.

Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe