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OSISA equips major Bulawayo hospital, presses Zimbabwe on human rights

The Zimbabwe government should protect and guarantee the rights of citizens and not use the cover of the coronavirus pandemic to limit freedoms, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) urged on Tuesday.

OSISA executive director Sipho Malunga said this as his organisation donated medical equipment worth US$80,000 to Thorngrove Hospital in Bulawayo, the second largest infectious diseases facility in the country.

Malunga, who joined the hand-over ceremony through video link, said OSISA had spent over US$6 million in 12 SADC countries in an effort to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

The virus had put a “severe strain on the public health systems of many countries globally, including their inability to respond to cope and respond to the pandemic effectively,” Malunga said.

He added: “National economies were highly impacted and inequalities of all types have been deepened and aggravated by this pandemic. Of further concern has been the increase in the violation of fundamental human rights and unjustified limitations on freedoms by a number of countries in our region, but also beyond, under the guise of enforcing Covid-19 public health and emergency regulations and measures.

“We call on the Zimbabwe government to ensure that as they respond to the pandemic, they must see to it that rights are protected and guaranteed, and even expanded given that by its very nature the virus has resulted in the restriction of rights.”

Dozens of rights activists, journalists and opposition supporters have been arrested since the start of a nationwide lockdown in March last year, after the government banned political gatherings and indefinitely suspended elections.

Malunga said his organisation had used the US$6 million to support information dissemination on the virus, awareness raising around the pandemic and how to prevent it as well as strengthening access to testing and treatment for all.

“The investments also included mitigating the social and economic effects of the pandemic particularly for those living on the margins of society, providing support to investigative journalism to spotlight excesses including government mismanagement of health funds during this crisis, fighting against disinformation relating to the pandemic and also supporting transparency and accountability for human rights implications related to responses to the pandemic,” Malunga said.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe reported 32 new coronavirus infections and two deaths. Since the disease was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11 last year, Zimbabwe has reported 36,321 infections, including 1,489 deaths.

Malunga said in August last year, OSISA made another medical equipment donation to the Mutare Infections Diseases Hospital, noting that the virus had put a “severe strain on the public health systems of many countries globally including their inability to cope and respond to the pandemic effectively.”

The Thorngrove donation included 30 hospital beds, mattresses, 10 Intensive Care Unit beds, cardiac chairs, medical gloves and gowns.

Bulawayo Health Services Director Dr Edwin Sibanda said: “Today we received purpose-built beds for the ICU and general ward beds which are easier to manipulate and move around, and they are better than the beds that we had.”

Thorngrove is one of the facilities designated to admit Covid-19 patients, but until recently it had failed to open owing to lack of equipment.

Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni said the donation would “ensure patients admitted at this hospital have the greatest comfort”, calling it an “upliftment of the rights of the people of Bulawayo.”

Provincial minister Judith Ncube said the coronavirus had “taken the country by surprise”, adding that in the early days of the outbreak it was a “nightmare that kept us all fearful.”

She warned: “Citizens have now become less cautious and are not fully adhering to the measures. We risk being overwhelmed and undermining our collective good work.”

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Chief Editor: Earnest Mudzengi Content Editor: Willie Gwatimba