ZimRights takes the fight against COVID-19 to COVID Hotspots

ZimRights takes the fight against COVID-19 to COVID Hotspots

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) in a bid to fight the spread of the deadly virus starting from 15th -17th of July 2020 participated in four (4) sanitize to live donations campaign of covid-19 relief packs, in Masvingo and Matabeleland Provinces. The move was in response to the spike in COVID 19 cases. The Matabeleland and Masvingo province were identified in the (WHO) and (IOM) situational reports as Covid-19 hotspots, thus Prisons, Quarantine centres and Hospitals. Quarantine centres across the country have become the greatest Covid-19 threat with returnees making up the bulk of the new cases. According to the latest updates from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare as of 16 July 2020, two hundred and seventy-three (273) cases tested positive for Covid-19 on the 16th of July 2020. These include 12 returnees from South Africa, 1 from Mozambique and 260 local cases. To date, the total number of confirmed cases is 1362, recoveries 425, active 914 and 23 deaths. According to District Administrators in all the Matabeleland provinces most quarantine centres are overcrowded with little to zero social distancing. The general living conditions are inhumane, and this has resulted in many returnees escaping from this centres. Prisons and hospitals have also been identified as possible breeding ground for the spread of the Pandemic.

In the four meetings held with key stakeholders from the different provinces, sanitizers and re-usable masks were donated.

Most District and Provincial hospitals are ill-equipped to respond to Covid-19 cases, because of lack resources. The pandemic has also exposed the fact that Matabeleland South heavily depends on Mpilo general hospital in Bulawayo, while Masvingo province mainly depends on the ill equipped Masvingo general Hospital. The Provincial and District hospitals do not have basic equipment like ventilators that are needed in the management of the Covid-19 related symptoms. In an effort to alleviate the situation, ZimRights, with support from SIDA and IOM, has handed over 150 re-usable face masks and 150x125ml hand sanitisers to Chief Superintendent M Ngwenya who is the acting officer commanding for Zimbabwe Prisons Correctional Services for Matabeleland South. After receiving the material, Superintendent Ngwenya highlighted that ZPS tries with very little resources given to sanitize the prison cells, the whole prison complex including the cars and trucks that transport inmates. He cited that the inmates may be at high risk of contracting Covid-19 during court sessions as there is less or no screening that is done during court sessions.

ZimRights was informed that (ZPCS) Gwanda has a holding capacity of 394 inmates, 15 being women and the rest being males. However the ZPS mentioned that there is overcrowding within the holding cells which may expose inmates to the Covid-19 virus. ZimRights officials travelled to Beitbridge on the 16th of July 2020 to make another donation at the Beitbridge Covid-19 Quarantine centre. ZimRights donated Covid-19 relief packs to the Quarantine centre through the District Administrator’s (DA) office. The donation consisted of 168 hand sanitisers and 262 re-usable face masks.

The National Vice Chairperson Mr T Chiveya handed over the donations to the Beitbridge DA Mrs S Moyo. From the meetings during the handover, it was noted that most returnees using the Beitbridge border post from the various neighbouring countries, were quarantined at the Beitbridge hotel and NSSA Centre with limited rooms at the Beitbridge Hotel and the NSSA centre .This has forced the returnees to share the limited accommodation increasing the risks of the spread of Covid-19.

Meanwhile the ZimRights team went as far as Chiredzi, where they also handed over reuseable face masks and 6x24x125mls of hand sanitizers to the Chiredzi District Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Tarumbwa. Dr. Tarumbwa pointed out that Chiredzi as a border town has a high risk of being affected by the pandemic due to the fact that there are many illegal crossing points into the country from South Africa and Mozambique. He also pointed out that the donation will go a long way in helping the health front line workers.

The last handover was done in Masvingo urban to the Masvingo Covid-19 Task force team. 180 reusable masks and 7x24x 125mls of hand sanitizers were handed over. The Task force representatives present point out that the value the masks and sanitizers will help in the fight of the virus in these trying times.

The World Health organisation regulates that people should always put on face masks whenever in public. It also requires people to practice and maintain social distance as a way to curtail the spread of Covid-19. (WHO) also regulates that people should sanitise, avoid touching their eyes and faces. Given that background, it was however sadly noted that some occupants and the general population are not adhering to the regulations;

  • Some people are walking round with no facemask which is against the regulations of WHO and a danger to others.
  • In terms of transportation most people in the country use government subsidised transport, thus the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) as a means of transport with no or less social distancing, which can lead to the increase of the prevalence rate of Covid-19.
  • In all the visited provinces most people gather and drink alcohol in Bottle stores and Taverns with no social distancing and masks.

Stakeholders Views on Covid 19 within the Masvingo and Matabeleland Provinces

  • There is need for more quantities of sanitisers for the disinfection of prison cells, prisoner transport vehicles, public transportation buses (ZUPCO) and hospitals.
  • There is need to decongest the prison cells by building more holding cells or transferring other Prisoners to other Prisons across the Country. As it stands Gwanda prison has more than 100% occupancy.
  • There should be measures put in place in the prison cells and in court rooms to minimise contraction and spread of COVID-19
  • All the key stakeholders receiving the donations highlighted there need for more PPEs for the frontline workers.
  • There is a need for more transport to carry returnees so that they do not use public transport as this will endanger the lives of innocent travellers.
  • There is need for Government to provide transportation for frontline staff.
  • There is need for more food supplies for those in quarantine centre
  • Shortage of quarantine space, NSSA is no longer adequate as there is a continuous increase of returnees.

Key Asks for ZimRights

  • The key stakeholders requested ZimRights to engage in awareness programs for inmates, quarantine centres and hospitals.
  • ZPSC Gwanda prison requested that ZimRights engage them further by doing an MOU with the institution so as to engage inmates further on human rights education. ZPSC also indicated that they had been working with churches before the pandemic.
  • The Key stake holders applauded ZimRights for the donations and requested for more donations if there is a chance to do so.

Conclusion
The question on whether this pandemic will go away or will go on will keep ringing in the heads of many in Zimbabwe and the world at large. Meanwhile, ZimRights is proud to be part of the greater team that has heeded the call by the government for all Government departments, CSOs and other non-state actors to assist Government efforts in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic especially in key populated areas like prisons, hospitals, Isolation centres. ZimRights remains grateful to its partners in this initiative who include SIDA and IOM.

Report Issued by

Joel Hita (Mr)
Masvingo Chairperson

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