332 days of the COVID-19 lockdown and as of 23 February 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 35 910, after 48 new cases were reported. All were local cases of which the highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 31 cases and Mashonaland West with the second highest tally at 7 new cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate as of 1500hrs on the 22nd of February 2021 went up to 156 hospitalised cases, 64 asymptomatic, 52 mild to moderate cases, 36 severe cases and 4 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 2 174 as the total number of recoveries went up to 32 288, increasing by 72. The recovery rate is at 89.6%. The death toll has risen to 1 448 after 7 new deaths today.
The 45th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and 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, and to enable progress tracking. We note with concern the press reports reporting “over 5000” vaccines utilised after a week of vaccines rollout.
Critical Emerging Issue
Private sector procurement of vaccines
We note the policy position announced by the Deputy Minister of Child and Health Care that the private sector can procure vaccines for their members for workers and these will be delivered for free and through the public health systems.
- We urge Government to support this position by announcing the applicable measures within the system to ensure that vaccines are not sold and further are not commercialised to the detriment of the nation.
- We remind Government of the critical role to ensure that vaccines remain a public good that is equitably accessible to all.
Community mass testing
We note reports in the public domain raising concern over the efficacy of tracing and testing currently being undertaken, especially in light of the vaccine rollout currently underway. We emphasize the need for an advanced testing strategy that 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 urge against de-prioritisation of testing, over the vaccine rollout.
- We further urge complete re-prioritisation of mass-based community testing and mass-based community tracing.
- 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.
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. 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 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, 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.
- We call upon 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.
We continue to call for expanded access to information on GBV services, including publicizing hotlines, toll-free lines and data base 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.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe