Many women try to make ends meet in the rough time of Covid-19. Companies are reducing the number of their employees - especially women are affected.

The nurses' strike has continued since March, when Zimbabwe recorded its first case of corona.

For the past two decades, life has been a constant struggle for survival for ordinary Zimbabweans. There is a perennial shortage of basic foods and health care. For the country’s failed agro-based economy, it has been a journey veering between hope and disenchantment from one rainy season to another for the past decade. The harsh consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated Zimbabwe’s already grim reality.

Despite the fact that food and health rights are prominently entrenched in the country’s constitution, Zimbabwe features prominently in the list of the world’s worst food crises in the 2020 United Nations Report. The World Food Programme (WFP) expects the number of food-insecure Zimbabweans to surge to over 60% of the population soon. Attempts to speak out on behalf of the unheard, who are dying of hunger and illness in silence, attract resentment, and sometimes even harassment, persecution and torture by the government.

Zimbabweans are also dying in hospital car parks because the new government health policy requires COVID-19 clearance certificates which are extremely difficult to obtain due to insufficient testing facilities. Priced between US$60 – 1000, the certificates are also unaffordable for most. On average, it takes 7 days to be given a testing slot and another 7 days to receive results. Most COVID-19-related deaths occur at home as Zimbabweans shun the health care system that has clearly abandoned them.

The COVID-19 isolation centre of Zimbabwe’s largest hospital, Parirenyatwa, has more than 300 beds. Yet, it was unable to use more than 30 beds due to a 4 month-long nurses’ wage strike. On 27 July 2020 alone, seven babies were stillborn at one of Harare’s largest hospitals after urgent treatment was not administered because of the nurses’ strike.

Instead of addressing the dire healthcare problems, which are spiralling out of control, the Zimbabwean government has chosen to militarise the healthcare system by appointing compromised, improper and unfit military generals to the top echelons of the health ministry.

In addition, the little food aid that Zimbabwe receives from international donors is subject to a corrupt and partisan distribution system, further side-lining the poor and those who do not toe the governing party’s line.

COVID-19 resources have also been looted by the governing elites, while ordinary Zimbabweans are simply left desperate. The challenges posed by COVID-19 have rendered Zimbabweans’ health and food rights meaningless while the government has been consolidating its authoritarian rule through even higher levels of repression and oppression than before. Basic human rights are but a distant dream for Zimbabweans.

A child in Kuwadzana is looking for used plastics to use as fuel for cooking.

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