HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe state of human rights in the Covid-19 era

The state of human rights in the Covid-19 era


Human rights are at the centre of responses to the Covid-19 pandemic both at government and community levels.

They not only facilitate protection of the right to health but also other areas of people’s lives including food security and economic stability.

It is apparent that responses grounded in human rights ensure that human dignity and constitutionalism are respected.

Such responses are also inclusive, impartial and transparent.

This is especially important and action the words of United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, who has noted that it is up to all of us to solve this global crisis.

This report is grounded in community experiences and the voices of thousands of Zimrights members both at home and in the diaspora, who are motivated to see Zimbabwe recover better from the pandemic and also ensure that every Zimbabwean has the highest standard of life.

Through this report, Zimrights hopes to give communities a platform to share their experiences and visions for Zimbabwe and in the process influence policies and actions taken to mitigate loses as a result of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has come at a time when the world is grappling with various global challenges including climate change, global injustices and systemic inequality.

Even the most developed countries were not fully prepared to deal with a public health emergency of this magnitude.

Zimbabwe was further low in the resource index, having suffered blows of constant economic decline in the last two decades as a result of misrule and poor governance.

At the fore is a poor health care system which falls short of the bare minimum provided in the United Nations universal health coverage (UHC) including a lack of financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

Therefore, the situation in Zimbabwe had already been devastating for many before the pandemic.

However, these challenges have been further amplified with many households facing starvation.

Many have also lost their source of livelihood through the informal sector as a national lockdown was put into effect in March 2020 and borders into neighbouring South Africa and Botswana being closed, hampering cross-border trading.

This is against a backdrop of a government lockdown without a plan, no safety nets for the poor or emergency financial injections into public health care.

Due to these challenges being amplified and exposed, this period has rehashed the importance of community and service.

Civil society organisations and the private sector have stepped in to provide support and services to the most vulnerable. It is within this framework that this report is developed.

The report forms part of Zimrights’ Covid-19 response strategy and collates the community voices documented in nine human rights monitoring reports.

This special report therefore provides an in-depth analysis of government action or inaction thereof and community experiences.

The analysis is done within a global framework but bringing it closer to home through telling the stories of communities and evaluating the responses to the global pandemic between March and July 2020.

It, therefore, paves way for developing more inclusive and community centred efforts during and post Covid-19.

This report speaks to important issues that require attention now and post-Covid-19 and the baseline measure is the imperative to prevent infections, save lives and recover better.

It has eight chapters which consider disaster preparedness and response, human rights and rule of law, the gendered impact of Covid-19 and the impact of Covid-19 on education, food security and poverty, small business and the informal sector.

Based on the gaps highlighted from the in-depth analysis of these issues, recommendations to the government, civil society and private sectors are given.

A cardinal feature of the report is the emphasis on the importance of drawing on lessons from the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

This ensures that in as much as this situation is unprecedented, the country has a model to learn from. This is within a reality were opportunities to mitigate a failing health care system in the country have been lost to a culture of corruption and impunity.

This ailing system is reflective of the state of human rights and rule of law in the country. Moreover, with emergency powers triggered, the human rights fabric has further disintegrated with increased police and military violence, arbitrary detentions and unlawful arrests under the pretext of enforcing the national lockdown.

This further exposes the limited civic freedoms in Zimbabwe and the need to adopt a governance framework that promotes civil and political rights as guaranteed in the constitution.

This also highlights the interconnectedness of human rights and we urge the government of Zimbabwe to apply a holistic approach to governance.

In this respect, the report is exploratory and captures important community experiences and gives recommendations which are key tools in broader efforts to address the challenges presented by the pandemic in Zimbabwe.

l This is an extract from a Zimrights report titled, A Human Rights Analysis of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Zimbabwe, that was released last week.

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