Zimbabwe: Statement On the Court Judgement for Re-Opening of Council Clinics

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The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) welcomes the High Court judgment ordering the City of Harare to re-open all its 42 clinics to the public and ensure that there are enough clinics to offer emergency medical treatment to residents, including pregnant women.

We commend our legal representatives, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and our brave women for standing up against the irrational decision of closure of clinics in Harare.

We assert our position that the closure of clinics is a serious public health issue and a blatant violation of the right to health enshrined in the supreme law of the land.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No 20), Section 76(1) and (3) states that, "Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic health care services and no person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health care institution."

The closure of clinics has caused untold suffering among pregnant women who have been refused emergency services in council clinics by health personnel who are demanding parallel payment of between US$30-50 even though they would have paid their maternal fees for the service.

We call upon the health personnel to respect the sanctity of life. Turning away pregnant women seeking emergency services is tantamount to an attempt to take away the life of both the mother and the expected child.

This Court Order comes at a time when women have been forced to give birth in their homes, which has posed a high health risk. Cases of women giving birth at a clinic gate after being denied access to maternal services have been reported in some areas like Mabvuku Poly-Clinic.

We reiterate that every woman has the right to safe and respectful maternal health care.

Closure of clinics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is irresponsible and unacceptable.

CHRA is aware of council nurses who are now offering health services in their homes including maternal services. Our members have also brought to our attention, the unfortunate incidences of corruption by Council health workers who take drugs from the few operational poly clinics. These corrupt health workers have turned their homes into mini-pharmacies, selling medication to desperate residents in foreign currency, while claiming that the City's Health Department is not stocking the clinics with medicines.

The government of Zimbabwe cannot be exonerated on the closure of Council clinics. Provision of health services by Councils (City of Harare) is an unfunded mandate hence we call upon the government of Zimbabwe to put a reasonable fiscal commitment towards health for local authorities in the 2021 Budget.

CHRA will put a series of measures to monitor the implementation and compliance of the Court Order by both the City of Harare and the national tier of government and will not hesitate approaching the Courts on the failure to implement the court judgment.

We are disappointed that during the time of a global pandemic, where other governments are prioritizing access to primary health, we have been forced to access this basic right and service via the courts. This calls for serious introspection on both local and national leadership.

We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to address economic fundamentals and unbridled corruption that has seen the collapse of the health delivery system.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

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