335 days of the COVID-19 lockdown, and as of 26 February 2021, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has increased to 36 044 after 50 new cases were reported. All cases are local cases. The highest case tally was recorded in Bulawayo with 21 cases and Harare with 14 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate as of 1500 hrs on the 25th of February 2021 went down to 150 hospitalised cases, 73 asymptomatic, 41 mild to moderate cases, 31 severe cases and 5 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 2 042 as the total number of recoveries went up to 32 539, increasing by 1463 recoveries. The recovery rate went up to 90.3%. The death toll has risen to 1 463 after 5 new deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours. 1 572 frontline workers were vaccinated today bringing the total vaccinated to 12 579.
The 48th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we note the end of the lockdown which is now imminent. We continue to urge the authorities to timeously inform the Nation on the next steps so that citizens can plan accordingly.
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 reveal 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.
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 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 are not operating.
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, 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 bases 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, tollfree lines and a 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.
Inconsistencies and selective application of the law
We are concerned with policy inconsistencies and selective application of the law as far as public gatherings are concerned. We note that the government officials and the country’s leaders continue to wantonly disregard COVID-19 regulations and safety protocols for their own convenience. Online videos showing a huge political gathering convened by the Nation’s leadership at a Borehole commissioning ceremony (where no social distancing was practised) negate the very intention of the COVID-19 regulations and the ban of public gatherings. The lack of seriousness and commitment on the part of the authorities in adhering to COVID-19 Regulations will be the fundamental determinant on whether Zimbabwe defeats the pandemic or not.
- We therefore urge the Government of Zimbabwe and the country’s leadership, to exercise urgency in safeguarding citizens by practicing what they preach by faithfully adhering to the COVID-19 regulations and safety protocols.
- We remind the Zimbabwe Republic Police that no one is above the law, and hence urge the uniform application of the law on all citizens of Zimbabwe, regardless of colour, status and political standing.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe