News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter June 2021

Dear church friends,

I hope you are enjoying the somewhat up and down summer weather. Carol contacted me the other day to say it was a miserable 13c on midsummers day, - the same temperature as we had in Choma on a particularly cold midwinters day here. The colder season in Zambia has brought with it a 3rd wave of Covid which means we are still on the Covid 19 red list for the UK, so it will be some time before I can come back again, but, if you like we can catch up over a zoom meeting (or something similar) since my furlough has been somewhat delayed?


I am sure you have heard on the news that all of Africa is at high risk. To date, Zambia has vaccinated less than 150,000 out of 18 million people and despite best efforts with information, it seems people are finding it hard to stick to the golden rules of hand washing, wearing a mask and social distancing, so spread is out of control and hospitals are overflowing. The Government has decreed a partial lockdown and restricted church services to 1 hour, bars to weekends only, funerals to 50 mourners or less and restaurants to just take-aways as well as closing education facilities for a month. Because the economy is preforming so poorly, and the general election is less than 2 months away, a full lockdown is deemed too impracticable. However, this wave is stronger than anything we have seen before and our lack of medication and disinfectants for the Covid clinics is alarming. Victor, from one of the two clinics we support in Mansa texted after receiving a donation “things are really bad here, 3rd wave is worse than the 2nd wave, I only managed to buy disinfectant and cidex which we are using for the dead bodies which even is finished now.” And a week later,“we have been busy the past few weeks , patiens are a lot now, such as we have a 7 year old and a 10 year old child, and we have been recording deaths this last week. We have run out of almost everything now . . . you really help us a lot”. A clinic in Zambia is an outpost of the nearest hospital rather than a GP surgery. Generally it is run by a medical officer and a few nurses. Until this pandemic they have had little experience of barrier nursing.

The government is supplying masks and has recently been given more PPE, oxygen and medication, but it still may be inadequate for the amount of admissions we are now seeing.

Patrick at home, and later when
admitted to hospital
Patrick at home, and later when admitted to hospital

In Kitwe, ironically, we only had a week of Play4all opening after a year of limited opening with just visits to the kid’s homes as part of the feeding programme, when we had to suspend it again as the government closed the schools. The feeding programme will still continue however, and on our last day open we heard some disturbing news about Patrick one of our regulars, who was reported to be acting strange and running around naked in the local market. Jane went to see his mother, whom she found was extremely sick, we later heard she was refusing to take her medication. We had thought Patrick to be about 8 years old but were told he was actually 13, and poverty and malnutrition seems to have taken its toll both mentally and physically. Jane spent the rest of the day going from clinic to clinic to try and get him some help or a letter to the hospital, but in the end, I used a CADRO contact, Matamola, the charge nurse on Choma mental health ward. He managed to speak a colleague in Kitwe and get a hospital appointment on the mental health ward after the weekend. This gave us time to get some warm clothes for Patrick and provide some food which a neighbour would cook for him and his mum. When Jane went to see them on Saturday she found they were in the middle of a family funeral for Patricks’ grandmother.

Later we learned that despite his youth, the hospital agreed to admit Patrick for assessment on Monday which gave Jane a bit of breathing space to look for specialist care. Sadly, despite her best efforts, all the homes / facilities that might help said they were not admitting because of the pandemic. An update is that after 3 days in hospital he was discharged with medication. We managed to get the neighbour to agree to look after Patrick and his mum temporarily, but the next day his mum was taken into hospital and was diagnosed with TB, despite being very ill, she to is being discharged today (30 / 6) due to lack of beds because of the amount of Covid patients. One route for Patrick is that a great aunt who came for the funeral and visited him and his mother in hospital, may be able to look after him for a while if we support her. Mum is still too weak to look after him. Contacting the aunt is difficult however, as she has no phone.

On a lighter note the CADRO team completed their epic 300km journey in April from Choma to Lusaka in 9 days. The purpose was to sensitise folk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and to try to raise funds for an office / counselling room. We had a very good response on social media, both our WhatsApp and Facebook page hits soared to new heights and we had interviews on National and local radio and TV as well as visiting the District Commissioners in each of the 6 districts we walked through. Well, I say we walked through I was driving the support car mostly, but I did manage to walk about 50 kms and organised supplies and did some of the cooking. We took tents but finding a comfortable pitch was difficult and the guys were often too tired to put them up, so we slept in the cheapest lodges we could find - (about £7-10 per room and we needed 3 rooms). Twice Olivia and I slept in the car rather than on a schoolroom floor, or a room with mattresses on the floor and the door hanging off its hinge! The extra expense on lodgings contributed to reducing the money we raised, as did paying for a police escort for most of the days we walked. In the end we found what was raised would only buy us about 6 months’ rent on a modest place, so the counselling room plan is in abeyance but the overall experience was very encouraging and CADRO has raised its profile both locally and nationally.

Marita moved to Luanshya earlier this month because she was worried about the exhausting 4 to 5 day round trip from Chipata to the only hospital that could treat her elephantitis. Once in Luanshya she was admitted to hospital for a week to have an operation, leaving Emmanuel, (who I think is about 12 – 14) in charge. He forgot to lock the door one day and their blankets and cooking pots were stolen. This is not the first time their meagre belongings have been stolen, and is a sad example of how poverty invites trouble upon trouble.

Cain separating the honey
from the wax (and for the
sharp eyed in the
background Klippie has
found something interesting
in the sink!)
Cain separating the honey from the wax (and for the sharp eyed in the background Klippie has found something interesting in the sink!)

Finally, I am delighted to say we were able to harvest about 7kg of honey from the beehive in my garden recently. Cain, who helps with the garden is very knowledgeable about bees and was able to process some lovely clear honey for me. I think I will ask Chodort to make me a second hive, as the bees start swarming in a month or so. My bees are very gentle and seem reluctant to sting so it would be good to encourage more like them. I hope it will also contribute in a small way against the loss of insects worldwide, which although it doesn’t get much coverage, is hugely disturbing.

Items for prayer:

  • For the Covid 19 situation in Zambia, which is becoming quite alarming.
  • For Marita, whom we have now helped move to Luanshya, with the 3 children she looks after, so she can be near the hospital which is treating her.
  • For Bridget and Nathan, both in need of expensive medication. Bridget has to go to Ndola hospital (a full day’s journey away) for further tests in July.
  • For the future of Patrick and his mother.
  • For the safety of Jane as she moves around to help our play4all children in these dangerous times.
  • For much needed supplies to reach the outlying clinics such as Mansa and those in remote parts of Zambia.

Items for praise:
  • For Jane Mwenda and the Play4all volunteers who help her distribute food to the kids.
  • For Nathan, who is much improving. Bridget says he is even able to walk into town now but he is still in need of medication and hospital visits.
  • For the people who have contacted CADRO since the walk. We have had many stories of tragedy and frustration, but at least we are able to provide them with hope and support.
  • For UN aid to Zambia to help us fight the Covid infections.

Wishing you all peace, patience and good health.