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Health workers strike a sign of inequality

Zimbabweans are forced again to grapple with sad news of industrial action by medical practitioners in the public health sector.

The news comes at a time when memories of a story carried in The Herald of 5 September 2019  are still fresh.

It was one of the most disturbing stories  where a pregnant woman was reported dead together with her child at Parirenyatwa Hospital allegedly due to negligence by medical staff manning the maternity ward.

More often, when people talk about industrial action in the health sector, people tend to look at it from monetary and economic terms without putting a human face to it.

The strike by nurses and doctors is just a sign of how Zimbabwe is an inequality infested country.

The stand-off between the government and its medical employees brings to light the realities of ordinary Zimbabweans who are already suffering from various socio-economic deprivations including hunger.

In a context where the income inequality is glaring, it is acknowledged that industrial action is a labour right and a means of redressing income inequality.

As such, the responsibility lies squarely with government to attend the needs and requests of health care workers which are more than justified given that their demands have been ignored since 2019.

It is an undeniable fact that it is the poor and marginalised Zimbabweans who depend more on services provided by the public sector when the rich and elites resort to privatized services.

It, however, follows that when practitioners in public health institutions engage in industrial action, it is the ordinary Zimbabwean who suffers the most.

The most unfortunate part of it is that chaos in the public health sector translates into avoidable death of helpless citizens.

The dignity and right to life of ordinary citizens are undermined.

What has happened to the constitutional promise of right to healthcare? Section 76 (1) of the Zimbabwean constitution declares that, “Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic healthcare-services, including reproductive health care services.”

As the sole guarantor of this right, the state must ensure that this right is enjoyed by all and sundry regardless of one’s social status.

This is substantiated in Section 76 (2) which obliges the state to “…take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of this right.”

Taking into consideration that a health population is essential for sustainable human development and ultimately economic growth and development, a position also recognised in the Sadc Protocol on Health of 1999 which Zimbabwe is a signatory to, it is high time the government of Zimbabwe considers, in earnest, addressing the challenges bedeviling the health sector including prioritizing the welfare and concerns of the workers.

It is a fact that a malfunctioning public health system depreciates the country’s chances of attaining expected outcomes of key economic development blue prints, the National Development Strategy 1, especially those pertaining to health and wellbeing and Vision 2030 included. According to the National Development Strategy 1 Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism (Cisomm) Report[2] produced by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, as at January 2022, the 2021 targets for health and well-being were missed except for life expectancy which is at 61.63 years, slightly above the prescribed target 61.5 years.

A healthy nation is a productive one. It is therefore critical for the government of Zimbabwe to take sustainable measures to resuscitate the ailing health sector to ensure that quality healthcare is guaranteed to all in line with Chapter 4, Section 76 of the constitution.

This includes motivating practitioners in public health care.

If the inequalities in the health sector are not addressed at national level, Sustainable Development Goal 3 of ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all, at all ages, will remain a pipe dream. –Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development


PVO Bill is a step backwards for women

O

n November 5, 2021, the government of Zimbabwe announced its intentions to change the existing Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act to discourage money laundering and prevent non-state actors from “politicising charitable giving.”

If passed into law in its current form, the Private Voluntary Organizations Amendment Bill, H.B. 10, 2001 will have negative implications on gender development in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has made significant progress toward improving the status of women, and gender justice over the last 42 years by enacting various mechanisms, laws, and treaties.

This progress occurred on the strength of effective women’s organising largely through non-governmental organizations effectively placing gender on the agenda, and whose initiatives, directly and indirectly, promoted gender equality.

The PVO Amendment Bill proposes amendments that interfere with the operations of NGOs with long-term consequences that may lead to organisations closing or losing their funding.

Zimbabwe is a state party to several regional and international conventions on gender such as The Beijing Declaration and its Platform for action, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) which Zimbabwe ratified in 2007, and the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development, ratified by Zimbabwe in 2009.

Zimbabwe also subscribes to the Sustainable Development Goals which seek to promote gender equality (Goal number 5).

The government of Zimbabwe has collaborated with NGOs to implement provisions of these regional and international conventions.

Importantly, this type of constructive engagement between government and NGOs has been critical in yielding positive results.

Among Zimbabwe’s key achievements towards gender equality which may be reversed if the PVO Bill is passed into law:

The Domestic Violence Act was passed into law in 2007.

The Act includes most instances of gender-based violence in its definitions, such as harassment, stalking, and intimidation, and criminalises these acts.

It also provides a comprehensive framework for reporting GBV, including allowing third parties to make a report to authorities. NGOs, like the Musasa Project, played a key role in advocating for the Domestic Violence Act, including drafting it.

In addition to the Domestic Violence Act, Zimbabwe also has developed comprehensive frameworks to mitigate gender-based violence.

Among these are the Standard Operating Procedures for Safe Shelters (2012) protocol in line with the provisions of the Beijing Platform for Action.

NGOs have complemented the government in the provision of safe spaces for women and children, with support from external funders. NGO-government partnerships exist to provide adequate access to services including, legal, medical, and psycho-social support to survivors.

The victim Friendly Unit of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is another example of effective collaboration between NGOs and the government that benefits citizens.

The Unit is pivotal in providing access to justice for survivors of abuse, especially children.

Organisations that have successful collaborations with the government of this nature, such as the Musasa Project, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, and the Legal Resources Foundation, among others are likely to face negative effects if the Bill is passed into law.

Zimbabwe has brought the HIV epidemic under control through successful prevention strategies, including major advances made under the Global Plan on Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV.

The HIV response has contributed to strengthening the national health system.

Decentralised services, removal of barriers such as user fees, service integration, and strengthened community service delivery have helped fulfil the country’s commitments to eliminate Mother to Child Transmission of HIV, and also boost all aspects of maternal health.

According to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the maternal mortality ratio declined from 651 in 2015 to 525 in 2017 and then 462 in 2019.

The proportion of women of reproductive age who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods has increased from 86% in 2016 to 89% in 2019. Zimbabwe benefited from the 5-year US$25 Million-Challenge Tuberculosis (TB) grant which came to an end at the end of 2019 and according to the 2022 National Budget statement, Zimbabwe is expected to receive US$482,059,110 from development partners.

Critically, these funds are channeled through NGOs, and if the Bill is passed into law.

Without the financial resource, women’s access to adequate sexual and reproductive health services will decline.

NGOs promote women’s economic empowerment through capacity strengthening in entrepreneurial skills, and provide technical assistance in areas such as Agriculture and business management (Zivanayi, 2017). NGOs also offer micro-finance facilities to women, and some organisations such as Self Help Development Organization, Plan International, and Jekesa Pfungwa/ Vulingondo, support women’s empowerment through initiatives such as internal saving and lending which promote women’s access to finance for their livelihoods projects. According to Zivanayi’s study, participants reported that the ability to earn an income has enhanced their capacity to influence domestic relationships, specifically, negotiating with their husbands amicably, something they found difficult without the support of NGOs.

Civil society organisations such as the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Women In Politics Support Unit, and Women Academy for Political and Leadership Excellence, among others have been essential in supporting and mentoring women to take leadership positions in politics and public decision making. –Alois Nyamazana  Accountability Lab


Feedback

Zimbabweans are demanding more action from government on pollution.

A large majority of Zimbabweans say the government should be doing more to limit pollution and protect the environment, according to the latest Afrobarometer survey.

Citizens cite trash disposal as the most important environmental problem in their community, especially in cities, followed by deforestation and pollution of water sources.

Respondents say the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean rests with the local and national government and with ordinary citizens.

Key findings

  •  Almost half (46%) of Zimbabweans say pollution is a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem in their community (Figure 1).
  • Trash disposal is the most important environmental issue affecting communities in Zimbabwe (cited by 30% of respondents), followed by deforestation (23%) and pollution of water sources (16%).
  • Urban residents are four times as likely as their rural counterparts to see trash disposal as the most important environmental problem affecting their community (58% vs. 14%). Concern about trash disposal increases with respondents’ education level, ranging from 13% of those with no formal schooling to 43% of those with post-secondary qualifications.
  • Almost half (45%) of Zimbabweans say local government (25%) or national government (20%) bear the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean. But one-third (34%) assign that responsibility to ordinary citizens (Figure 4).
  • The view that local or national government has the primary responsibility to reduce pollution and keep communities clean is more pronounced among residents in Harare (68%), those experiencing high lived poverty (60%), and urbanites (57%).
  • About three-quarters (74%) of citizens want more action from the government to limit pollution and protect the environment, including 51% who say the government should be doing “a lot more”.
  • This is the majority view in all provinces, ranging from 57% in Midlands to 95% in Harare, and is more pronounced in cities than in rural areas (88% vs. 66%). – Afrobarometer

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