242 days of COVID-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that, as of 25 November 2020, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 9 508 after 110 new local cases were reported. Active cases went up to 898. The total number of recoveries now stands at 8 336 after 39 new recoveries were recorded. The death toll still stands at 274.
We commend the joint efforts of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Ministry of Health and Child-Care, in intensifying community awareness-raising campaign on the importance of wearing facemasks and adherence to COVID-19 preventative measures. The increase in COVID-19 cases dictates the need to constantly ensure adherence to public health guidelines and safety protocols.
Critical emerging issues
2021 National Budget: Health Sector allocations
We note the presentation of the 2021 Budget, with the Ministry of Health and Child-Care being allocated ZWL $54.7 Billion. We note that this allocation, although constituting a huge chunk of the Budget, falls short of the Abuja Declaration target for Governments’ spending on Health Care in Southern Africa, which mandates 15% of the total Government Expenditure towards the Health Sector. This becomes particularly important, in a context where the Nation is struggling with the implications of COVID-19 on the health sector, and the persistent job actions by Government health personnel due to deteriorating poor working conditions
- We therefore urge strengthening prioritisation of the Health Sector by ensuring that the Budget allocation meets the 15% threshold as provided by the Abuja Declaration.
- We further emphasize on prioritisation of access to health care services and sexual reproductive health rights for women.
Readiness and response to COVID-19 in schools
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.”
Whilst we commend the rolling out of measures to review the maximum carrying capacity of all boarding hostels, and the conduction of detailed inspection 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.
- We continue to ask why where 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 on the Parliament of Zimbabwe to call government to order and to demand accountability from the Executive on this matter in the fullest.
Further, whilst we also commend the release of $150 million to the education ministry 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 for 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.
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 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 national GBV response.
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 and 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe