208 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 23 October 2020, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 8 257, after 15 new cases were reported. Active cases decreased to 250 and 29 new recoveries were recorded. The total number of recoveries now stands at 7 771. The death toll still stands at 236.
As the education sector continues to expand the re-opening of schools, we await the publication of updated guidelines, by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, on the wearing of face masks by children in order to strengthen the control and prevention of infection in schools and communities.
We note with commendation the investment into securing supplies of 21 080 Gene Xpert cartridges, part of the critical testing consumables, as a means to ensure testing capacity is retained. We note with further commendation, the announcement that the testing cartridges constitute an additional six months stock towards the national testing capacity.
We commend further the onboarding of two laboratory firms commissioned to test for COVID-19 at international airports and entry points. We call for the vigilance of the Ministry of Health and Child Care on ensuring accessibility and affordability of testing.
Emerging Critical Issues
Prioritisation of GBV response during COVID-19
We continue to raise concerns over the alarming increase in Gender-Based Violence cases in Zimbabwe during the lockdown. We draw further reference to the findings of the research undertaken by WCoZ 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 is 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 largely 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 COVID-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 a 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 urgently to implement a dedicated ring-fenced budget to increase domestic funding for national GBV response.
Stigma and discrimination
Reports from our networks continue to highlight an increase in 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. We note that such stigma may undermine social cohesion and drive people to hide the illness in order to avoid discrimination. This may result 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.
Complacency and disregard of public health guidelines in public spaces
Our networks report increased economic and social activities within communities and businesses. The reports also reveal non-adherence to safety measures such as physical distancing, sanitization of workplaces and regular temperature checks. Our networks have also raised concern over some commuter operators plying long-distance routes failing to maintain public health safety protocols such as physical distancing, and sanitization. This raises concern 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 worry that such conduct may lead the nation into another spike of COVID-19 cases.
- We continue to call for the strict implementation of public health safety protocols in the public spaces and public transport system.
- We urge enforcement agents to ensure strict implementation of public health safety protocols in the public transport system.
- We urge citizens to observe physical distancing as they meet and interact in public places such as banking halls.
- We urge businesses to continuously fumigate premises and workplaces for the safety of workers and patrons.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe