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At least 4 million Vulnerable Zimbabweans are Facing Humanitarian Crisis in Rural Areas amid COVID-19 Pandemic- Report

Over 7 million people in urban and rural areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance across Zimbabwe, compared to 5.5 million in August 2019, according to the 2020 Zimbabwe Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP).

Since the launch of the Revised Humanitarian Appeal in August 2019, circumstances for millions of Zimbabweans have worsened. Drought and crop failure, exacerbated by macro-economic challenges and austerity measures, have directly affected vulnerable households in both rural and urban communities.

Inflation continues to erode purchasing power and affordability of food and other essential goods is a daily challenge. The delivery of health care, clean water and sanitation, and education has been constrained and millions of people are facing challenges to access vital services.

Growing food insecurity

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The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, undertaken in February 2020 indicated that there are more than 4.3 million people severely food insecure in rural areas in Zimbabwe [chart above]. While another 2.2. million people in urban areas, are “cereal food insecure”, the most recent Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) analysis with a new ZimVAC assessment conducted between 10 and 21 July 2020 states [chart above]. Erratic and late 2019/2020 rains have impacted the 2020 maize crop, and crop assessment indicates yields and production significantly down. The food gap (import requirement) for a second year running will be close to 1 million tons. Nutritional needs remain high with over 1.1 million children and women requiring nutrition assistance.

Increasing healthcare and educational crisis during COVID-19 pandemic

At least 4 million vulnerable Zimbabweans are facing challenges accessing primary health care and drought conditions trigger several health risks. Decreasing availability of safe water, sanitation and hygiene have heightened the risk of communicable disease outbreaks for 3.7 million vulnerable people. Some 1.2 million school-age children are facing challenges accessing education. The drought and economic situation have heightened protection risks, particularly for women and children. Over a year after Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe in March 2019, 128,270 people remain in need of humanitarian assistance across the 12 affected districts in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces. There are 21,328 refugees and asylum seekers in Zimbabwe who need international protection and multisectoral life-saving assistance to enable them to live in safety and dignity.

As of 22 July, Zimbabwe reported 2,034 confirmed COVID-19 cases (vs 926 two weeks earlier and 530 one month earlier), including 26 deaths since the onset of the outbreak. Six provinces account for 90 per cent of cases in Zimbabwe. The exponential increase in cases in last 3 weeks is associated with a steep increase in number of locally acquired cases. With the recent increase of COVID-19 transmission in the region, the Government of Zimbabwe continuous to strengthen and accelerate preparedness and response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Priorities include the strengthening of the Public Health response through the timely appointment to MOHCC leadership positions and resolution of the health worker crisis; enhancement of capacities at the operational level, including strengthening of coordination and partnership at provincial level and in highest risk districts; delivery of essential health services with health worker occupational health and safety and rationale use of PPE; and addressing resource gaps.

Following the declaration of COVID-19 as a national disaster on 19 March 2020, the Zimbabwe National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19 was launched with an initial eight pillars of coordination, the creation of a national COVID-19 Response Task Force and the formation of the Inter Ministerial Committee as well as several sub-committees. A high level forum consisting of Task Force and the international community is meeting fortnightly to review progress in tackling COVID- 19.

In addition to the previously announced lockdown regulations, on 21 July the Government of Zimbabwe introduced extra measures including a curfew from 6pm to 6am for all but essential services effective 22 July; official business operating hours from 8am to 3pm with the exception of providers of essential services; and inter-city/town public transport and inessential transport to all rural areas remaining banned. Earlier, the Government of Zimbabwe declared a 21-day nationwide lockdown starting on 30 March 2020 ensuring the continuity of essential services, with an initial extension of two weeks and easing of lockdown regulations on 1 May allowing formal industry and commerce to resume operations, with specified measures in effect until 17 May, but with the informal sector as well as other sectors, including education, remaining closed. The lockdown was extended indefinitely with a review every two weeks. Returning residents and foreign nationals are required to quarantine for a period of 21 days, of which the initial 7 days at Government designated quarantine centres, with mandatory testing on day one and day eight.

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As of 22 July, a total of 12,650 migrants (vs 10,808 migrants on 7 July) [chart above], including 6,943 men, 5,450 women and 257 children [chart below], have returned to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries with the large majority of returnees arriving through the points of entry of Beitbridge border post (6,629), Plumtree (2,741), Harare International airport (1,937) and Forbes (646). The number continues to increase daily, with a projection of 20,000 new arrivals in the next coming months with inclusion of those from northern countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The number of people quarantined remained stable with 1,481 individuals on 17 July in comparison with 1,297 individuals on 7 July, after a significant decrease from 2,136 on 22 June, quarantined in 44 centres operated by government, including 747 men, 623 women, 54 girls and 57 boys. The large majority of returnees were quarantined in Harare, Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Midlands, Manicaland and Mashonaland West.

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The number of pellagra cases reported has continued to increase in Zimbabwe in June. Following increases from 86 pellagra cases in March to 141 cases in April and 220 in May, 230 cases were reported for June 2020. The numbers of pellagra cases are likely to continue increase as food insecurity in the country deepens and household income for accessing diversified diets continues to be depleted by the economic crisis. The unexpected decrease in admission of children for treatment of acute malnutrition that was recorded in April has since improved with 1,643 children being admitted in May and already 1297 severe acute malnutrition (SAM) admissions in June with the reporting rate still at 88.2 per cent, compared to 1,168 the previous month of April. This increase in admissions is a signal that continuity of essential services is being prioritized in health facilities. In addition, a continuous improvement was noticed with 85,947 children having received Vitamin A in May and 88,579 children in June, compared to the drop in April by about 50 per cent due to the disruption in services delivery following the lockdown to contain COVID-19.


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