Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest

Situation Report
Zimbabwe — Trends
Lawrance Njanje gives her 19-month-old son a supplement plumpy nut at the Tanganda Rural Health Centre, near Mutare. Photo: UNICEF

Government declares COVID-19 crisis a national disaster

  • First case: 20 March

  • Total cases: 574 (as of 29 June 2020)

  • Total deaths: 7

  • Schools: Closed (4.1 million learners affected)

  • Borders/Flights: No commercial international flights permitted during nationwide lockdown. Borders remain open for cargo.

  • Containment measures: National lockdown in place since 30 March; domestic travels allowed only for seeking/providing essential services; Seven-day mandatory quarantine at Government facilities for travellers or those who had contact with symptomatic people.


Zimbabwe confirmed that 574 people had contracted COVID-19, including seven who died from the disease, as of 29 June. The Government declared the COVID-19 crisis a “National Disaster” on 27 March and introduced an initial 21-day national lockdown on 30 March. The measure has later been extended indefinitely with a review every two weeks. Some restrictions were lfited on 1 May to allow formal business to resume operations, following specific prevention measures as the screening of employess. All international passenger flights in and out of Zimbabwe remain suspended and schools are closed. Citizens have been advised to limit their visits to the informal markets, which are still allowed to function. People found guilty of spreading fake news on coronavirus can be charged with 20 years of prison.

Following several reports of police brutality during the State of Emergency, the High Court granted on 14 April, an interim order that any enforcement officers engaged in implementing the country’s lockdown must respect human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms, according to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. On 20 May, the Heads of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America issued a statement exhorting the Government of Zimbabwe to respect human rights. The letter follows the abduction and torture of two leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and a member of the Parliament, all opponents of the Government. The three women were reportedly sexually assaulted by police officers after being arrested during a protest in Harare on 13 May over the impact of COVID-19-related restrictions on vulnerable families.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) group has raised concerns over the severe water and sanitation crisis, which is likely to undermine the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. According to HRW, thousands of women and school-age children are spending eight to nine hours and all night in lines at crowded boreholes or narrow water wells to get water, increasing risks of violence. The Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe has reported that at least 764 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) occurred during the first 11 days of the COVID-19 national lockdown, above the monthly average of 500 GBV cases.

Nearly 7,000 migrants from Zimbabwe have returned to the country since April from neighbouring nations, the majority of them from South Africa, according to IOM. Nearly 2,500 Zimbabweans returned from South Africa between 7 and 17 May 2020 through the Beitbridge border post alone, a significant increase compared to thd 102 returnees registerd in April. Higher numbers of repatriations are espected in the coming months due to the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Zimbabwe was already facing increased humanitarian needs due to multiple climate shocks and a harsh economic crisis. The health system was nearly collapsing and at least 7 million people in urban and rural areas across Zimbabwe were facing increasing hunger and in need of assistance.


  • The Government launched its COVID-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan on 19 March and has said it will increase cash transfers for 1 million vulnerable households.

  • In May, Zimbabwe was added to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19, with $84.9 million required to reach 5.9 million people with urgent COVID-19-related assistance. This comes on top of the pre-existing requirement of $715 million to reach 5.6 million people in Zimbabwe with life-saving assistance and protection, which was called for under the Zimbabwe Humanitarian Response Plan.

Official sources:

Ministry of Information Official Twitter and Ministry of Health Official Twitter

Zimbabwe COVID-19 Dashboard and Ministry of Health Daily Updates

Other links:

Unsafe Water Raises COVID-19 Risks, by Human Rights Watch

20 years in jail for spreading fake coronavirus news, by The Standard

High Court granted an interim order that police must respect human rights, by ZLHR Lawyers

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Response to COVID-19, by IMF