Zimbabwe: 'Soldiers Must Not Lead Covid-19 Vaccination Programme in Tsholotsho'

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Communities in Tsholotsho have expressed concern over suggestions by Health and Child Care Minister Constantino Chiwenga that government will soon rope in soldiers to speed up the second phase of the COVID-19 mass vaccination programme. This came out during a Conflict Analysis and Resilient Assessment meeting conducted in Tsholotsho between 31 March and 1 April 2021.

Participants highlighted that community members remained fearful of soldiers due to their role in Gukurahundi massacres that affected the District between 1983 and 1987. "If reports that soldiers are going to lead the vaccination programme in phase 2 of the vaccination programme are true, then it is doomed to fail. We are very fearful of soldiers given that they killed thousands of people here during the Gukurahundi massacres. No one will take the vaccine if it is being administered by soldiers", said one participant.

Participants also noted that the failure by government to initiate a robust healing and reconciliation process to address Gukurahundi has created animosity between members of the security services and community members."Today if I see a soldier walking, it evokes memories of our people who were killed by members of the Fifth Brigade during Gukurahundi and telling us to get vaccinated by the same soldiers is very disrespectful and inconsiderate on the part of government" said another participant.

Other issues raised during the meeting include the lack of awareness and adequate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Participants further highlighted that they were not aware of how the vaccine works and the intervals that one is supposed to take the second dose of the vaccine. Conflict issues identified during the meeting include allegations of unfair food aid distribution and rampant drug abuse among youths.

The meetings by Heal Zimbabwe are part of efforts to empower local communities to help safeguard against human rights abuse and also help build peaceful communities. Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The platforms also equip communities with relevant information on COVID-19, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and human rights. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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