Nsama Musonda Kearns
Warm greetings to you all from Zambia and hope you are all safe from this disease Corona Virus which has changed our ways of life. Zambia’s cases are slowly increasing from less than 50 to 76 cases as of today, 3 deaths and 37 recoveries, with about 9 medical staff in the front line defense testing positive for the virus. The global outbreak of the virus has not spared Zambia from economic challenges, with the dollar raising as high as 20/1 against the USA which has seen many commodities prices also increasing.
A lot of companies have placed their staff on rotating shifts while others have been led off as more and more companies are struggling to manage their businesses. The mining sector on which Zambia is highly dependent for revenue and jobs has not been spared and recently the Ministry of Mines threatened to revoke the mining License of Mopani Copper Mines for their Kitwe and Mufulira mines, some of the biggest mine investments in the country. This was after the Chief Executive Officer Nathan Bullock announced that the mines would be put under care and maintenance for 3 months and over 11, 000 workers were to be laid off, but the government together with the mines union protested the move by Mopani and when the Mr. Bullock tried to leave the country before the issue was resolved, he was detained at the airport, until they had closed door meetings in which they resolved not to close the mines.While detaining the CEO may be seen as a debatable human right violation, this is not the only violation of rights that has brought debate in Zambia since the outbreak of COVID19.
The presidential directive to close all public places that trade in alcohol and making wearing of masks in public mandatory has seen the Lusaka Province minister taking it upon himself to inspect drinking places and beat people who were found drinking and making road blocks to see if those using public transport were wearing masks.While enforcing the presidential directive is a good move to help stop the spread of the virus, the majority of the local people feel mandatory wearing of masks is not sustainable as the cost of one mask is equivalent to the amount the poor live on per day which is K20 or $1. For an average family size of 5 to seven, they would have to spend close to $10 dollars per day on masks which they cannot even afford to generate for household use.The current floods and drought in most provinces of Zambia which has destroyed crops, roads, bridges and houses has worsened the poverty levels in the rural areas and in the wake of COVID19, hygiene standards are hard to observe as people use pit latrines and wells for water and when the area is flooded water is contaminated, creating a high risk of disease outbreaks. Social distancing is another challenge for flood victims as some are leaving in schools and tents where they have to stay close together for protection. Nutrition to maintain a strong immune system seems imaginary as millions of families are currently surviving on relief food.Some of the areas affected by floods are along the boarders and whilst security, screening and testing is active in the cities, it is not the same in the rural border towns, meaning it’s very easy for cross boarder infections to occur in the rural areas, and if this happens it may turn out catastrophic as the health care systems are not up to date. Although government has identifies treatment and isolation centers in all the provinces, Corona Virus may just increase poverty levels to a new height as business hours are restricted and people are spending the little income they make on soaps, sanitizers and masks.The civil society is not spared from the impact as a lot of work has been disrupted due to ban of social gatherings. This means that no field work can be conducted at this time only through ICT Technologies such as zoom and conference calls but for rural based organizations where internet is still a challenge, there is a break in information and communication flows.
The civic space for activists has been shrunk by the political atmosphere and not being able to interact makes it even worse for activists to stay active and if no plans are put in place to strengthen the existence of CSOs we may end up losing the little voices that have remained.In an effort to help the families that are affected by floods and drought at this time of the COVID19 outbreak, we as Zambian women have come together to raise funds to help fellow women in the flood and drought areas through a campaign we are calling women aiding women. We are hoping to raise enough resources to help at least 1, 500 women to set up small businesses through village banking to help reduce the dependency on relief food.Our hope and prayer is that a cure be found soon as this disease has placed humanity at the verge of extinction. It is now each and every one’s responsibility to be his brother or sisters keeper, to offer each other a helping hand, because solidarity is what unites us as Africans, and it’s what has kept humanity together to co-exist regardless of tribe and race. Now is not the time to fight or blame one another but a time to unite until peace returns on earth.