City Centre, Zimbabwe Source: Cecil Bo Dzowa / Shutterstock.com

For a country already suffering from economic deterioration owing to among other things, hyperinflation and food insecurity at the back of successive droughts, the COVID-19 crisis could not have come at a worse time for Zimbabwe. Urban communities already faced with poor sanitation, lack of adequate public infrastructure and unemployment have continued to deteriorate during the pandemic.

As part of measures to contain the spread of the novel corona virus, the Government of Zimbabwe implemented measures such as restricted movements (lockdowns) and closure of public markets in the informal sector. These restrictions  have affected a large segment of the urban population who rely on the sector to make living.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Zimbabwe’s informal sector accounts for at least 60% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

With the continued spread of the coronavirus, the need to modernise and improve sanitation in informal markets has become more urgent. Many public spaces in urban communities do not have adequate and safe sanitation facilities increasing the risk of disease.

UNDP, UNICEF, the Government of Zimbabwe, and Oxfam as the implementing partner are working together to create safer and more modern market spaces;  improve COVID-19 awareness and public sanitation; and support to women who have suffered increased gender-based violence (GBV) during the lockdown.

The project seeks to meet the immediate and long-term needs of about 20 000 people in Glen View and Budiriro through protecting livelihoods, hygiene promotion and building resilience to future shocks. Work has already begun rehabilitating two informal markets in Harare’s Glen View and Budiriro high density suburbs including the installation of foot-operated handwashing facilities to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

To promote community engagement,  Oxfam has partnered with the City of Harare to engage organised groups, such as the women’s savings groups, to conduct community decontamination activities on a cash for work basis. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) developed in collaboration with the City of Harare, will ensure that infrastructure, such sanitation facilities, becomes the norm, and is not just a response to the current pandemic. About 1320 vulnerable households with a population of 5265 people have already been reached with information, education and communication material on COVID-19.

According to Musasa Project, gender-based violence (GBV) has increased during  the lockdown. Due to movement restrictions, women, people with mobility disabilities, or people who are subject to stigma due to their health may not have the power or status within a community to access their rights or the services they need. In response to these challenges, the project has collaborated on a referral pathways system focusing on prevention of GBV, sexual exploitation and abuse; and improved access to information during the pandemic.

This initiative is anchored on the pilot phase of the Urban Resilience Programme spearheaded by UNDP, UNICEF, the Government of Zimbabwe, Harare City Council and Oxfam as the implementing partner. The 20 000 people  targeted  in Glen View and Budiriro are in line with the UNDP corporate COVID-19 response offer and the Government of Zimbabwe’s National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19 Pillar 2: Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE).

The Ministry Health and Child Care is being supported through WASH and livelihoods activities; and  equipping the Rapid Response Teams with the skills needed to work in the heart of the COVID-19 response.

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