Transport woes: Women’s nightmare during covid-19.
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I gave a lift to a woman this morning. My heart broke, as I saw her walking up the hill in the cold morning with a little baby covered in a blanket. My heart broke, I must admit considering COVID 19, I passed her at first, but I could not go any further. I could be that woman, so against my COVID fears, I stopped. She told me she was going to Parirenyatwa hospital, there was no transport to take her there, so she was walking with her new-born baby.
‘Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services.’ At least so says Section 76 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Over the last few weeks, I have been contemplating what exactly this right may mean to the ordinary Zimbabwean.
The Corona Virus has exposed the giant loopholes within our health care system. In fact, currently there is no health care system at a time when the world is turning to the health care providers for direction. The medical personnel in Zimbabwe have been protesting low salaries and inadequate provision of PPE within the system. It has been weeks now since this started, and we have not resolved anything.
The crisis does not end with the corona virus itself. Not only are the hospitals not operating, but there is also a crisis in accessing public transport. The lockdown regulations have taken away private transport operators and only the ZUPCO transport is available. Every morning and evening the desperate commuters are a sign of how dire the situation is on the ground. The burden of care work, and care giving lies primarily with women. It means these challenges being faced by our system are a burden for women. To be able to access medical services which are not localised women need to find transport, to be able to buy medication, women need to get transport to get to a pharmacy. Women have reported that they have been turned away by police at roadblocks while trying to access medication of themselves or family members.
Access to health in this regard can be extended to availability of transport to access the services and medication. It is clear as the World Health Organisation has stated that social distancing is the new normal and the world will have to find ways of coping with the virus. While Zimbabwe is grappling with the corona virus, we also must find ways of addressing the challenges that women are facing to access services. I have read with horror different accounts by women of what they have gone through trying to access services. I have seen and heard of people who are discharged from hospital and cannot afford to get private transport and end up walking hoping to find a lift home.
Safety for women during these transport challenges is not guaranteed. Women have been leaving home during odd hours to access public transport and spending long hours in the queue to be able to get home end of the day. The experiences of accessing transport have been traumatic for women. It has put women at risk, and it cannot be allowed to continue.
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Access to medical services is a right, access to transport is also a right, and measures must be put in place to ensure transport is available but also safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to address the urgent issues, the Corona virus is not going anywhere soon, and we however need to find a way of ensuring people can still get their basic services without being penalised. Transport is an urgent need, medical personnel in our hospitals is a must. We cannot focus on COVID-19 measures without ensuring that the basics are in place.