Govt launches anti-sexual violence effort

HARARE - The government has started teaching healthcare providers and other clinic staff how to provide compassionate, confidential, and competent care to survivors of sexual assault.

Experts say clinical care for rape survivors should be available from the earliest onset of an emergency. 

Health and Child Care ministry launched the National Guidelines on the Clinical Care and Management of Survivors of Sexual Violence and the accompanying National Training Guidelines.

Both documents were developed with funding from Danida — Denmark’s development cooperation, which is an area of activity under the Foreign Affairs ministry; and technical support from Unicef.

The documents specify the protocols for the medical examination, assessment, care, management, and support for survivors of sexual violence.

They will be used by the Health ministry to set standards for services, as well as to roll out a training programme for health personnel. This will ensure the provision of streamlined and standardised ethical, compassionate, objective and survivor-centred health care services nationwide.

Speaking at the official launch, the deputy Health and Child Care minister Adrian Musiiwa said: “The guidelines are a timely and necessary intervention in our ongoing responses to the increasing incidents of sexual violence.”

He said that on average, 15 new cases of sexual violence, mainly involving children, are attended to at district hospital level every month; meaning that over 900 cases are attended to nationally.

“Though the increasing numbers could be an indicator of the increased awareness and empowerment of children and women in communities to report incidences of sexual violence, the statistic is still quite worrisome. The question is, what percentage of these survivors report within the 72 hours of the incidents to ensure proper clinical management?” Musiiwa said.

The clinical guidelines will be used by health care practitioners to ensure that all survivors of sexual violence receive a standard level of care when they present themselves to a health care facility, and that they are referred to the appropriate service providers in a timely manner for further support.

In an interview on the side-lines of the launch, Unicef Access to Justice programme manager, Siyma Barkin Kuzmin, said: “The guidelines are an important mile-stone towards delivery of quality clinical care to survivors of sexual violence.

“The trained health personnel will not only provide better quality services, but will be better equipped to write a quality medical affidavit for submitting to a court of law as evidence and appear in court as witnesses, facilitating access to justice for the survivors.”

The clinical guidelines are part of the protocol on multi-sectoral approach to the management of sexual violence, which defines the specific roles and responsibilities of different agencies to respond to the rights and needs of the survivors in an efficient and coordinated manner. 

They were developed through a process that involved wide consultations with key stakeholders, taking into cognisance regional and international guidelines and best practise for clinical management of survivors.

The process took into account the related issues of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy and psychological and emotional trauma.

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