SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Zimbabwe says more than 8 000 cases of sexual violence against women and young girls were recorded in 2019, while a staggering 800 000 others were exposed to threats of gender-based violence (GBV), the Daily News reports.
This comes as advocacy organisation, Musasa Project, has bemoaned the increase in cases of GBV in the country due to the coronavirus national lockdown — revealing further that its shelters had assisted more than 10 849 violence survivors since the beginning of lockdown in March 2020.
According to the 2019 UNFPA report, the vulnerability of women and girls to GBV was heightened by the country’s multi-hazard humanitarian crisis caused by economic recession and the impact of successive droughts.
“In 2019, over 8 000 cases of sexual violence were reported to health facilities, with only 27,8 percent of cases reporting within 72 hours.
“Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the protection consequences of climate change and economic hardship.
“In drought-affected areas, women and girls are forced to walk long distances to collect water, facing an increased risk of sexual violence,” the UNFPA said.
“Furthermore, the modification of daily routines forces them to spend long hours away from home, generating tensions within the household, and increasing intimate partner violence.
“Unbalanced power dynamics also exacerbate exposure to sexual exploitation and abuse, as women and girls increasingly resort to trading sex as a means of providing the most basic needs for their families,” the UNFPA said further.
It also said women and girls with disabilities were among the most vulnerable and three times more prone to GBV and harmful practices — adding that statistics also showed that girls between 12 and 19 were the highest age group experiencing sexual gender-based violence.
“The impact of the crisis on the health system also causes decreasing availability of clinical management of rape services, affecting timely access to lifesaving support, particularly for those in remote areas.
“Deprioritisation of GBV services also occurs as a consequence of the socio-economic impact of climate change- triggered crises and economic hardship.
“As a result of all of these factors, more than 800 000 people — mostly women and girls — were at risk of GBV in 2019,” the UNFPA said.
The UN agency also said latest estimates showed that HIV prevalence among adults (15-49 years) in Zimbabwe had fallen to 10,9 percent.
“Zimbabwe continues to see a decline in HIV incidence (currently at 0,3 percent, Spectrum 2020), half of the incidence rate in 2010.
“The rate of decline is, however, too slow to achieve global HIV commitments, including in Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (eMTCT) where the transmission rate stands at 7,6 percent,” UNFPA said.