241 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 24 November 2020, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 9 398 after 90 new local cases were reported. Active cases went down up to 827. The total number of recoveries now stands at 8 297 after 9 new recoveries were recorded. The death toll has risen to 274 following 1 new death.
The rising cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe are alarming. The COVID-19 pandemic requires an urgent re-think of the anti-COVID measures in place in their totality. We reiterate that we do not call for a full return to a hard lockdown but a real assessment and revision of how the current measures are simply not working. Without a critical review of how to act differently, as led by the Government in its role as policy maker, COVID-19 will continue to rise unchecked to the detriment of the nation.
We note the announcement that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with technical support from the Ministry and Health and Child Care is organising logistics for implementing measures to minimise the recurrence of the John Tallach School experience (where over 100 students tested positive for COVID-19) in other boarding schools.”
We commend the rolling out of measures to review the maximum carrying capacity of all boarding hostels, and the conducting of detailed inspections of boarding facilities and the targeted training of hostel matrons, boarding masters as well as kitchen staff to address hygiene and COVID-19 measures in schools. However,
- We continue to ask why were schooling communities put in this position in the first place? Why were such measures not adequately addressed in the run-up to the opening of schools wherein we, teachers and the public had continuously raised the issues pertaining to adequate readiness of schools including, specifically, access to water and sanitation services?
- We call the Parliament of Zimbabwe to call government to order and to demand accountability from the Executive on their matter in the fullest.
Further, whilst we also commend the release of $150 million to the Ministry of Education for the drilling of boreholes, we continue to demand accountability for why such measures were not put in place prior to the rise of the COVID-19 epidemics in schooling communities across the nation? Government simply must improve on a strong proactive preventative approach and not rush decisions without placing strong measures and their applicable support and enforcement mechanisms in place first.
In this regard we continue to call for urgent review and a realistic timeline to reopen land borders on the 1st of December 2020.
- We note the reiteration of the COVID-19 regulations and enforcement of the same regarding the closure of public bars, night clubs, beerhalls, casinos, betting shops and theatres which are still not permitted to operate.
- We note the further reiteration of limits of persons to weddings of 50 people and church services to 100 people.
Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thereby marking the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This comes at a time where we have noted an increase in an already existing pandemic of GBV, during the COVID-19 national lockdown, with the majority of women and girls being locked in with their perpetrators.
Critical emerging issues
Prioritisation of GBV response
We draw reference to the findings of the research undertaken by WCoZ on the state of GBV in Zimbabwe, 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 of 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 COVDI-19 National Response. We therefore recommend the following:
- Prioritisation of mental health wellness and psychological support in the time of COVID-19.
- 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 to urgently to implement a dedicated ring-fenced budget to increase domestic funding for the national GBV response.
Community mass testing
While noting the rising statistics of active cases, and the increased relaxation of the lockdown, we recognize the need for an advanced testing strategy which ensures community mass testing and contact tracing. We submit that in the absence of mass community testing and public accounting for local transmission case-tracing, it is impossible to determine the appropriate reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic prevalence in Zimbabwe.
We call for stronger testing support for communities with schools that have learners and teachers testing positive for COVID-19 to ensure community-based support for COVID interventions and real-time tracing of the reach of the pandemic nationally.
- We therefore recommend the Government to provide a clear plan of action to maintaining vigilance on COVID19 on testing tracing and treatment for the current period to mid-year 2021.
We further reinforce our call for an advanced testing strategy in the public sector and urge Government to update the Nation on the progress of testing of all members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and all lockdown enforcement officers.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe