336 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 36 058, after 14 new cases were reported. All cases are local cases. The highest case tally was recorded in Harare with 8 cases. We note that the hospitalisation rate as of 1500 hrs on the 26th of February 2021 went up to 161 hospitalised cases, 109 asymptomatic, 38 mild to moderate cases, 6 severe cases and 8 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases went down to 2 005 as the total number of recoveries went up to 32 590, increasing by 51 recoveries. The recovery rate went up to 90.4%. 3 126 frontline workers were vaccinated today bringing the total to 15 705 vaccinations. The death toll continues to stand 1 463 as no new deaths have been recorded.
The 49th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we note that no deaths have been recorded lately. We remain hopeful that the current, preventative measures are making an impact on the containment of the pandemic.
We are concerned at the silence by the Nation’s Leadership regarding further guidance on the lockdown, which has now come to an end. We continue to register our displeasure over the tendency of ambushing the Nation by last minute announcements, which do not leave room for citizens to plan timeously.
Critical Emerging Issue
We note reports indicating that low uptake of the vaccination indicating stiff resistance and suspicion from Zimbabweans due to a lot of misinformation circulating on social media. We also highlight concerns from citizens including frontline workers underscoring the need for sufficient information on the safety of the vaccine, its possible side effects if any, and the percentage of protection against the South African variant which is prevalent in the country. Reports indicate that approximately, 15 705 frontline workers had taken the vaccine since the roll-out exercise began.
- We therefore urge Government to improve its communication strategy to ensure that citizens are adequately informed on all issues pertaining to the virus, including its efficacy against the South African variant.
- We further urge prioritisation and deliberate inclusion of vulnerable populations such as persons with disabilities in the vaccination programme.
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 are 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, road blocks 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, tollfree 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