COVID-19 exposes social protection gaps

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE/NQOBANI NDLOVU

RIGHTS lawyers yesterday said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed flaws in the country’s social protection system, which has had catastrophic impact on citizens’ livelihoods.

In a statement to commemorate World Day of Social Justice, which is celebrated on February 20 every year, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) implored the government to accelerate efforts to eliminate social injustice and to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a universal agenda.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the growing digital divide within our society, especially in terms of access to Internet, availability, affordability, and thereby deepening existing inequalities, and this calls us to continuously adapt to digital transformations,” ZLHR said in a statement.

The lawyers said government should strengthen the implementation of social protection schemes and protect labour and human rights in the modern era of digital technologies.

“Commemoration of the World Day of Social Justice impels us to reflect on the meaning of social justice,” the statement added.

This year, the World Day of Social Justice, was commemorated under the theme A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy and is being celebrated at a time that the world is struggling with inclusivity, the respect for differences, lack of productive dialogue and intolerance to divergent views.

Meanwhile, members of the clergy have also called for dialogue in order to map a post-COVID-19 recovery strategy as the pandemic has left citizens failing to make ends meet.

The call came at a time that the government has not announced a post-COVID-19 recovery strategy as the country continued on an extended lockdown.

In a pastoral letter last week, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) said: “The ZHOCD calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to solicit the co-operation of its citizens and key stakeholders towards the co-creation of such a post-COVID-19 recovery strategy …through a broad-based and incisive national dialogue.

“We also implore other nations to extend their hand of support, not only to provide vaccines, but also to help Zimbabwe find resources to carry out its key health sector revitalisation and support the resuscitation of the economy.”

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