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Bulawayo Informal traders applaud the COVID-19 vaccination blitz

Last month the Government of Zimbabwe rolled out an Informal trader vaccination blitz in Bulawayo as part of ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The target was to vaccinate 15 000 vendors and informal traders, both in the CBD area and high density suburb market places. The government identified the informal sector as a hotspot sector.

Before the blitz, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) had received reports from informal traders that they were facing challenges in accessing COVID-19 vaccines that were being distributed  all over in Zimbabwe. COVID-19 vaccines centers were centralized and it was a challenge for vendors to get the vaccines.

BVTA President Aleck Ndlovu told The Vendors’ Voice that the informal sector plays a critical role in the broader economy and large numbers of the general public interact with traders in market places and it is for the foregoing reason that the government decided to give the informal sector preferential vaccination treatment.

“The vaccination program was to ensure that livelihoods are protected since the informal sector mainly consists of vulnerable groups such as women and people living with disabilities,” said Ndlovu.

The president of BVTA further said that the turnout was very high and the vendors were asked to bring proof of registration and formalization. Social distance requirements and mask wearing was strongly emphasized and BVTA went an extra mile in disseminating information about observing COVID-19 prevention measures during the vaccination exercise by deploying market bailiffs to monitor compliance with COVID-19 protection measures on the long queues.

BVTA also supported Market Bailiffs who monitor COVID-19 compliance in marketplaces with loud hailers for use in amplifying awareness on maintaining COVID-19 regulations in the vaccination queues and encouraging informal traders to get vaccinated. This resulted in many vendors taking the vaccination without hesitation.

Ndlovu revealed that the informal traders’ vaccination drive was a result of sustained advocacy by the organization that called on the local authority and government to set up mobile vaccination centres which were targeted market places. He added that the vaccination roll out exercise was a great success despite inconsistency in the vaccines delivery and supply. Another BVTA member, Nqobile Ndovu said that in the past, vendors and informal traders have been dismissed as ‘nuisance’ and blamed for littering the streets but this vaccination program showed them that the government is concerned about their well-being.

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