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Harare / Paris, 28 July 2020 – Quarantine Centres (QCs) in Zimbabwe are becoming clusters of contamination. High levels of infection are being reported due to significant gaps in terms of access to water, hygiene, sanitation (WASH) and infection protection and control (IPC) mechanisms. There is an urgent need for a coordinated, multi-sectoral response to rapidly bring the centres up to standard and slow the rate of infection according to Action Against Hunger’s report.
With a prolonged country-wide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic including limitations on movements and border closures, nationals and residents are allowed to re-enter but must be tested upon entry and sent to a state-allocated quarantine centre closest to their residence for 7-21 days in accordance with Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020.
However, due to the lack of both test kits and reagents available, the first test is often administered several or more days after arrival. This puts existing and new returnees at high-risk of infection and also pushes back their quarantine completion date. In addition, test results come back 5-13 days later implying the mixing of unknown positive and negative cases at centres.
« As of 8 July 2020, Zimbabwe had 885 confirmed COVID-19 cases, approximately 80 percent of these are reported from within QCs. The number of cases have also increased dramatically over the last 2 weeks with 2,034 cases, including 1046 from local transmission, according to the latest official statistics. The QCs have increased, rather than limited, the spread of the disease » alerted Ariane Luff, Country Director of Action Against Hunger Zimbabwe.
Despite the standard operating procedures specifically laid out for QCs by national authorities, according to a recent IOM report, only 30% had protection materials for staff and 38% of centres reported that water supplies have run out, and equipment and supplies to support regular hand washing were insufficient. Regarding testing, 100% of facilities admitted results come late or never. Test kits have been particularly difficult to procure, with reagents and test kits being donated or purchased in differing quantities and qualities, affecting the in-country capacity to test efficiently and at scale.
« Major gaps are largely related to the ongoing resource shortage faced by the Government of Zimbabwe due to the worsening macroeconomic crisis. This has affected key supplies with shortages ranging from chemicals for water treatment to essential equipment » explained Ariane Luff.
Increasingly, there are reports of returnees crossing borders illegally to avoid being forced into Quarantine Centers due to the conditions and lack of accurate information. This is believed to be a key factor in the exponential increase in local transmission, up by 40% in the last week alone.
There is an urgent need for a coordinated, multi-sectoral response to rapidly bring the centres up to standard and allow the QCs to operate as intended, to slow the rate of community infection. Action Against Hunger and other NGOs are well-positioned geographically to intervene and have the technical capacity to do so. Infrastructural WASH and IPC support in particular must be prioritised. However, funding for intervention is extremely limited with all actors currently relying on the re-allocation of existing resources, meaning significant gaps will remain until additional funding is made available.
Action Against hunger operates in Zimbabwe since 2002 with WASH, Nutrition and Food Security and livelihoods programmes aimed at saving lives and increasing the resilience of the most vulnerable people in the country.
Geographically, Action Against Hunger and partners have an established presence in Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces. In the context of recent projects, Action Against hunger has expanded its presence to Midlands, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Bulawayo
For more information about Action Against Hunger activities in Zimbabwe : https://www.actioncontrelafaim.org/en/missions/zimbabwe/