A community peace club established by a community that works with Heal Zimbabwe in Buhera ward 5 has noted that the COVID 19 pandemic is eroding past gains towards peace and social cohesion in local communities. This came out during a peace club planning meeting conducted by the peace club on 7 January 2021.
Peace club members highlighted that since the beginning of the 30-day lockdown, there has been a drastic increase in cases of domestic violence, and crime rate as most people are mainly confined at home and in the process lose livelihoods. Children have also stopped going to school due to the restrictions and this has increased the burden on parents as they struggle to feed their families. It also came out that the COVID 19 pandemic has also impacted the mental health of community members.
Isolation, social distancing, and the stress of the crisis have significantly increased mental health problems and trauma which is particularly difficult for people in local communities. Peace club members also reported that some restrictions such as social distancing undermine many existing peacebuilding efforts. Local peacebuilding efforts that often rely on in-person gatherings and people to people approaches are directly undermined by necessary restrictions on gatherings and social distancing measures. Some of these activities include dialogues and collaborative neutral platforms (nhimbes/amalima).
On the economic front, community members have also not been spared as most people live from day to day and have no savings to sustain their living. To this end, marginalized groups such as women, the elderly, and the disabled have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. As part of resolutions, the planning meeting resolved that it was important for the government and other stakeholders to adopt conflict-sensitive approaches as part of COVID 19 response efforts. This can help minimize conflicts. Peace club members were encouraged to continue monitoring cases of human rights violations and make necessary referrals. It was also agreed that where possible, the peace club was going to continue raising awareness on COVID 19 preventative measures such as the need for community members to observe social distance and wearing face masks.
Source: Heal Zimbabwe Trust