Impact of Covid-19 on Vulnerable Communities

Background to this Policy Brief

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus of 2019) around the world which started in December 2019 in China, a number of measures have been put in place by different governments. In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the COVID-19 crisis a “national disaster” on Friday, March 27, 2020 and proclaimed a national lockdown which started on 30 March 2020 as a measure to counter the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This lockdown has been adjusted several times and has spanned beyond 200 days by the time this report was compiled. What started off as a public health crisis soon spawned a governance and human rights crisis. The Citizens’ Manifesto took time to reflect on the crisis with marginalised communities to understand the impact of the COVID-19 on their communities. This report analyses the legal and policy framework that followed the outbreak of COVID-19, the impact on marginalised communities, as well as making key policy recommendations necessary for Zimbabwe to emerge stronger from the crisis.

Concern for the Vulnerable and Marginalised Communities

On 29 January 2020, Dr Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Health Emergencies Programme, noted that, “The whole world needs to be on alert now. The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come from the epicenter or other epicenter that becomes established.”

Input from other UN bodies showed growing concern, and at the end of January 2020, UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore noted that the Coronavirus was spreading at a breakneck speed and that it was crucial to put all necessary resources into halting it.

Declaring the Coronavirus a global pandemic on 30 January 2020, Dr Tedros said, “We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility. For all of these reasons, I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus. The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries. Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized by ‘pandemic’, and all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

When the pandemic was declared a public health emergency, the novel Coronavirus had infected more than 120,000 people in more than 100 countries. While Dr. Tedros mentioned that the worry was what would happen to countries with weaker health systems, the real issue as this paper found, is indeed marginalized groups that have no access to health facilities as well as communities that were to be hit hard by policy measures adopted by the government.

Read the full policy brief here (2MB PDF)

Source: Citizens’ Manifesto

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