Women and Law Southern Africa (WLSA), Katswe Sistahood, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Africa Trust (SAT) and Women’s Action Group(WAG) are women’s rights organizations that advocate for the full realization of women and girls’ health and rights in Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned about the massive strike being staged by the health personnel which has the potential to negatively affect women’s health considerably, including their access to general and maternal health and sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR). We bemoan the loss of lives resulting from the chronic industrial action by Health personnel. Preventable maternal health complications have led to women and their unborn children’s loss of lives.
Health Service personnel are essential to the provision of quality and effective health service delivery. Therefore, we call upon the Government of Zimbabwe in particular Ministry of Health and Child Care, Health Service Board and responsible parties to accelerate their response to the concerns and working conditions raised by the health personnel in the nation. Zimbabwe has made several regional and international commitments aimed at the protection of women’s right to health namely Maputo Protocol which guarantees extensive health rights for women and girls. Addressing the genuine health needs of health care workers is key to fulfilling these commitments.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe in Section 76 (1) – grants every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe the right to access basic health-care services, which include SRHR services and Subsection (4) which states that the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of the rights set out in this Section. It is imperative to note that the right to health does not exist in isolation, it is intertwined with other rights such as the right to life and information, failure to address this challenge has a ripple effect on the full realization of other human rights. By acceleration of your response to the concerns raised by the health personnel, the GOZ will be playing a positive role in creating a safe, enabling, and conducive environment for women to progressively realize their right to health.
The strike is likely to have a much larger impact on health and it is important to note that the SRHR services aforementioned include access to accurate information and counselling on SRHR, prevention, detection, and management of sexual and gender-based violence, Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV, safe and effective contraceptive methods as well as quality maternal health care. In the current situation where health personnel have put their tools down, this right may not be realized and it has detrimental effects on women and girls in particular through upsurge in maternal deaths, unsafe abortions, child mortality, unwanted pregnancies and backpedalling on progress done so far in HIV prevention and management.