331 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown and as of 22 February 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 35 862, after 66 new cases were reported. All were local cases, of which the highest case tally was recorded in Matabeleland South with 31 cases and Bulawayo with the second-highest tally at 16 new cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate, as of 1500hrs on the 21st of February 2021, went up to 142 hospitalised cases, 63 asymptomatic, 43 mild to moderate cases, 36 severe cases and 5 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 2 205 as the total number of recoveries went up to 32 216, increasing by 91. The recovery rate is at 89.6%. The death toll has risen to 1 441 after 1 new death was recorded today and an additional 4 deaths in January 2021, as raised through a data verification exercise. We continue to call for the daily statistics to include the numbers of vaccines-in-arms per day to maintain accountability and transparency in the national daily data on COVID-19. We urge transparency and accountability in the entire vaccination rollout exercise.
The 44th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we continue to note the rollout exercise of Sinopharm Vaccine in various Districts and Provinces in Zimbabwe. We urge the Government to advise the public regarding the process of the procurement and delivery of the Sputnik vaccine and the Astra Zeneca vaccine, both of which had been reported to be under procurement processes.
We further urge the Government to advise on securing the Moderna vaccine and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as per the state policy of procuring a mix of vaccines.
Critical Emerging Issue
Increase in GBV cases during the lockdown
We continue to raise concerns over the increase in GBV cases in Zimbabwe. We highlight global evidence on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which reveals that Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is rising rapidly and that access to services and modes of delivery of services for victims/survivors of this type of violence are changing quickly, due to measures to contain the virus at the international, national and local levels. Our own experience in Zimbabwe has shown that the lockdown has, to an extent, exacerbated known drivers of intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic violence such as increased stress at the household level, as well as lockdowns, social distancing or self-isolation making it harder for women and girls to escape abuse and access support. Reports also indicate that regular health, psychosocial and safe-house services are being overwhelmed, while traditional walk-in services are becoming harder to access or not operating.
Due to travel bans and other lockdown measures, access to critical services such as clinical management of rape, healthcare services for survivors of violence in the home or family, sexual and reproductive healthcare, as well as mental health and psychosocial support, have been interrupted in certain instances. This has posed a real danger of unplanned or forced pregnancy, unsafe abortions, inadequate prenatal and post-natal care for pregnant and lactating women increase in STIs including HIV, self-harm and suicide. Our monitoring reveals that survivors are facing challenges accessing services at hospitals, e.g. in Harare where most council clinics have been closed. In addition, roadblocks and the absence of travel letters have also contributed to the challenges in accessing services. We note that these challenges discourage survivors from seeking help timeously.
- We therefore recommend prioritisation of access to GBV especially SGBV services in public hospitals, at provincial land district levels and at other local clinics.
- We urge Government agencies, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), the 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.
- We call upon 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 implement a dedicated ring-fenced budget to increase domestic funding for the national GBV response.
- We continue to call for expanded access to information on GBV services, including publicizing hotlines, toll-free lines and database of local public health facilities where women and girls can receive compassionate and sensitive care. We recommend that this information be integrated into the national COVID-19 response messaging.
We continue to note a higher number of active COVID-19 cases which are currently being managed at home, as compared to the hospitalised cases. We therefore highlight our concerns on home-based care and the lack of support systems to assist such households. Reports from our networks indicate the non-operation of isolation centres in areas such as Kwekwe. Given these challenges, we reiterate the need for the Ministry of Health and Child Care to officially communicate and publicize information regarding the state of Isolation centres and hospitals throughout all Provinces and Districts of Zimbabwe.
We urge Government to introduce and implement measures to support home-based carers and primary care-givers in order to ease their burden and to minimize further risk of transmission.
- We urge up-scaling efforts on safe isolation centres which are not overcrowded which also cater for the needs and rights of women such as the availability of sanitary aid and sexual and reproductive health services.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe