ZIMBABWE’S COVID-19 management competencies fall far below the expected World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, a report by the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has gathered.
According to the ZADHR “4th COVID-19 Monitoring and Advocacy Report: 20 May 2020,” Zimbabwe was not following proper consultation procedures in dealing with the pandemic.
ZADHR notes with concern the lack of evidence-based decision making in informing the extension of the national lockdown in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government has shown a lethargic approach towards conducting widespread PCR diagnostic tests for COVID 19.
“In the absence of key epidemiological evidence on the true distribution of COVID 19 in Zimbabwe, it becomes difficult to ascertain the basis for extending the lockdown period. ZADHR stands out clear that the lockdown must not be extended as a cover up to curtail people’s civil and political rights but must be extended if evidence points that we have not yet met the World Health Organisation (WHO) Criteria of Lifting Lockdowns,” said the report.
The government of Zimbabwe on the 16thof May 2020 extended the 2nd Level lockdown indefinitely with a plea to conduct fortnightly reviews. However, Zimbabwe continues to lag behind in meeting its testing and health infrastructure strengthening targets due to inadequate allocation of fiscal support from the central government.
“There is also little attention being paid towards ensuring that the lockdown will not exacerbate socio-economic vulnerabilities to Zimbabweans. ZADHR is of the view that the lockdown extension must be benchmarked on clear targets, have a defined timeframe and must always be complemented by adequate support for vulnerable populations.
“The government of Zimbabwe must also start developing sector wide policy guidelines that informs how the country will exit the lockdown.”
The report also noted the poor state of affairs in the quarantine facilities and called on government to prioritise these centres since they have become the new hotspots for COVID-19 in the country.
“We wish to remind the government that the quarantine facilities must be urgently upgraded to meet the minimum standards as demanded by the WHO and all returnees must be treated with dignity in accordance with the regulations. Government must conduct focused testing using PCR kits on entry and on exit of the quarantine facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19 within and after the quarantine period.
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“Supportive infrastructure for psychosocial support, other communicable diseases screening and treatment, NCDs management, child and gender friendly services and educational support for minors must be urgently provided in the quarantine period. ZADHR will be actively monitoring the quality of care in the quarantine facilities and will seek available forms of recourse in all substandard facilities that violates the rights of returning residents.
[pullquote]“We note with sadness the tragic passing on of a female returning resident who died at Mkoba Teachers College, a quarantine facility. Further, we continue to reiterate that though COVID-19 is a pandemic of international concern, local citizens and returning residents must not be hindered from accessing healthcare for other ailments.”[/pullquote]
Meanwhile, the report also touched on issue of stock-outs of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) in most government run health facilities in Zimbabwe.
“Unavailability of PPEs is a violation of the High Court ruling which directed government to provide adequate PPE to all health workers. Additionally, it is also against the tenets of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Agenda. We condemn in the strongest of terms the lack of political commitment in ensuring that health workers are protected from COVID 19 at the workplace.
“Without PPE the response to medical emergencies and the provision of other essential health care such as maternal and paediatric services are curtailed. We have received credible and widespread reports of scaling down of maternal services and immunization activities in some health centres. Additionally, we are perturbed with the rising burden of malaria and malaria deaths. Health workers must have adequate PPEs in order to adequately examine and establish the diagnosis of COVID 19 and its differentials in a timely fashion in order to reduce mortality and morbidity.”