News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter April 2020

Second letter about the effects of covid 19 in Zambia

Hello from Zambia,

I hope you are all keeping well and finding constructive things to do in your time of isolation.

This is my second update about how Zambia is coping with the covid 19 outbreak. It is now over a month since our first case was reported in Zambia, and things are beginning to pick up momentum. When I wrote just under 3 weeks ago, there were 39 recorded cases and now there are 84, and in the last 5 days the increases have been daily. The government has made the wearing of masks in public mandatory and most people have homemade masks which you can buy for about 10p on the streets. People have also been told to stay in their own towns or areas unless it is for essential travel. Unfortunately there is no real guidance on what “essential travel” is, and last week St Stephens had 5 members with deaths in the family, who travelled to the funerals from as far as Livingstone in the South to Kitwe in the North. In Zambia funerals generally last 2 – 3 days with all ladies inside the funeral house sitting on the bare floor as all the furniture has been moved outside to accommodate the men, who sit outside all night under a tarpaulin around a log fire. I spoke to our minister Rev Musonda about this, as I was concerned about the close proximity of the mourners. He assured me that in future he would recommend that members should only support the family at the graveside where they could socially distance rather than go to the funeral house as is the tradition. Another huge cultural shift for Zambians.

When I wrote last, the outbreak was mostly in Lusaka, but now cases have been reported in 3 towns in the Copperbelt, Kabwe in Central Zambia and Kafue towards the South. Worryingly 15 of the 45 new cases are health care workers. This is probably because there is very little available PPE. I spoke to one nurse I know, who said they have to provide their own protective gear such as masks and gloves. I am sure you know from your own circumstances how concerning this is. New information on ventilators is that I have been told that Lusaka’s main hospital only had 2 at the beginning of the outbreak, so I would imagine that countrywide we have less than 50 outside of private facilities.

Another government directive yesterday said that churches, restaurants, barber shops and salons as well as tennis and golf clubs can open up provided they maintain social distancing, masks and sanitisation /hand washing. (Not sure how masks will work in restaurants!) In my view, this can only be for economic and political reasons, not health care. I know in a country like Zambia, lockdown is almost impossible if most people are living from hand to mouth and without essential utilities like water, but these directives do seem to give mixed messages about the importance of social distancing and may be changed again as the virus continues to take its toll. At the moment we only have 3 recorded fatalities.

Our boarders are also locked down, meaning that anyone coming in will have to undergo 14 days of quarantine. This and the restrictions in South Africa, has a knock on effect on cargo travelling from there, which supplies 90% of the shelf goods for our supermarkets.

It would be good to hear your news too, stay safe and please pray for Zambia,

Every good wish

Jenny


First letter about the effects of covid 19 in Zambia

Hello everyone,

At the time of writing over 1 million people have been confirmed as positive with corona virus. Globally we are all reeling at the change in our circumstances, some of us confined to our homes, others overworked in healthcare and supermarkets, and other essential services, all are equally concerned about their families and their own health. At this time we take comfort in our trust in God, and the care and kindness shown by friends, neighbours and family across the airwaves.

Listening to the BBC, getting posts on WhatsApp and watching you tube news I feel I am fairly well informed about the global covid 19 situation and am able to filter out the more wacky remedies. Sadly that is not so for many Zambian friends who have discussed with me garlic, ginger and lemon remedies for Covid 19. We have now set up a covid 19 information WhatsApp group which has many useful articles and videos.

Our first recorded case was just over 3 weeks ago when a small group came back from a wedding in South Africa. They were put into isolation for 21 days tested and 5 discovered to be positive. To date the number of positive tests has risen to 39 (37 in Lusaka and 2 in the Copperbelt) and one person has died. I know this is nothing compared to the UK but we have very few testing and health facilities and most people are frighteningly ignorant about the reasons for isolation.

The government also has not been clear about its strategy. 2 weeks ago they announced certain restrictions, including closing schools and education institutions, (including Chodort); all shops, banks etc to provide soap or sanitizer; social distancing; churches being restricted to meeting for 1 hour on Sunday and bars closing 2 hours early each day.

Due to the mixed messages about churches and bars nobody seemed to take social distancing seriously and life seems to carry on much as usual. It was at that point, I decided to self isolate, with any visitors limited to the veranda where we could sit and talk 2 meters apart and where they had their own hand washing facilities. Thankfully last week the government changed its mind and advised against church meetings, and closed all bars and restaurants (apart from take aways), there is still little clarity however about weddings and funerals which are supposed to be restricted to 50 people, but that is so culturally difficult I am sure it will not be adhered to.

I am sure by now you can see we are on our way to a huge outbreak of covid 19. The government has announced it dosnt have enough funds for a lockdown, The hospitals are already overflowing with patients so, in our area, Choma General has decided to make Njase clinic the centre for Covid cases, It is a small but very busy clinic and has maybe 6 -10 maternity beds? I don’t know if it has been provided with testing facilities (we have made 600 tests country wide so far) or ventilators, but I should imagine for the whole country, ventilators would be measured in hundreds rather than thousands.

Please pray for Zambia in this very precarious situation. We have neither the economy nor the medical facilities to cope with covid 19, all we are depending upon is prayer that God will somehow spare us from the misery and economic collapse that threaten to overwhelm us.

Wishing you all good health, a safe space and heart-warming relationships at this time

Love and prayers

Jenny



Jenny has shared this link to a holy week reflection, on the Methodist GB Facebook page:
Click for Website Methodist GB Facebook