206 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 20 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 8 187, after 28 new cases were reported. Active cases went down to 233 after 9 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries still stands at 7 692. The death toll stands at 233.
We note, with concern, the number of provinces that to date, continue to register zero cases of COVID-19 in their respective provinces. Whilst extremely supportive of measures that ensure that COVID-19 is contained and does not spread across the country we query the availability of mass community testing or surveillance testing in real terms on the ground in the communities of these provinces. We note further, that several provinces share critical transport nodes and fresh produce markets which have the potential to be “super spreader” sites and also note the on-going socio-economic activities which have resumed fully and yet no cases of COVID-19 are recorded.
We doubt the veracity of the existing testing framework. We also note with concern that this record is driving the active shunning of face mask-wearing in communities and disdain that is being increasingly brought against those seeking to adhere to social distancing and frequent hand sanitisation practices.
Emerging Critical Issues
Safeguarding women’s and girls’ rights in the time of COVID-19
We continue to bring to the fore, safeguarding women’s and girls’ rights, during COVID-19. This is anchored on the adequate representation of women in decision-making positions within the COVID-19 response structures. We emphasize that women’s solutions should be informed by women’s experiences and lived realities.
We, therefore, highlight the lack of adequate women’s representation in various COVID-19 structures. We provide the following recommendations:
- A gender lens approach to all COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery efforts by Government, Parliament, decision-makers, local authorities and other stakeholders.
- Implementation of Constitutional provisions, particularly, sections 17, 56 and 80, which speak to gender balance, and equality in representation in all spheres of the Zimbabwe society.
- Inclusion of more women’s rights organisations in the taskforce teams.
COVID-19 response and the rights of the elderly
We continue to highlight deeply distressing reports regarding the intersection of COVID-19 on older persons in regard to the pandemic. Survey reports for Eastern and Northern, Zimbabwe indicate that within the survey population:
- 79% of older persons cannot afford protective materials such as face masks to prevent them from contracting COVID-19, this is further evidence to support calls for a state-driven program to provide free face masks (and other protective clothing) to indigent persons and communities.
- 46% of older persons experienced barriers in accessing COVID-19 related information.
- 82% of older persons are bearing a burden of care and support to others during the COVID-19 pandemic. This figure is deeply problematic as it reveals the extent to which unpaid, unrecognised and undervalued care work burden on Zimbabwean older persons and women which is not being ameliorated or eliminated
- 68% of older persons over the age of 70 years have difficulty accessing medicines.
- 97% of older persons have had to reduce the quantity of food eaten while 58% have had to reduce the quality since the outbreak of COVID-19. Implications of hunger cannot be overstated.
Social Protection Measures
We note that 205 days since inception of Lockdown, Government continues to miss targets for social protection relief from the stated target of 1 million households. We note, with concern, that only 66 509 households have benefited from the sum of ZWL$39 978 559 COVID-19 allowance fund.
This literally means 933 491 Households have been left behind in the cold and yet Treasury continues to announce budget surpluses in the face of hunger and deprivation.
We continue to note the paltry support received by only 51 308 households, from the ZWL$30 813 019 disbursed for the Urban Cash Program. We note that this translates to an average beneficiary household amount of approximately ZWL$601 which is enough to purchase 1 loaf of bread for 7 days only.
- We call the government to order.
We highlight that The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency reported that the Poverty Datum Line for one person in August stood at ZWL$1 442.00, while that of an average of five persons per household during the same month was ZWL$7 211.00. At the same time, the total Consumption of Poverty Line, for one person stood at ZWL$3 449.00, while five persons per household during the same period stood at ZWL$17 244.00.
- We call upon government to refrain from undermining the constitution and the rights of citizens in respect of the right to dignity, the right to food and the right to life
- We call upon the government to refrain from an extractive and quantitative lens in addressing legitimate citizens demands.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe