Press Release: 1 year on and 85,502 confirmed Cases later: Time to double down on efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19
LUSAKA CITY, 18 March - A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children is urging families to maintain efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, including wearing masks, practising frequent hand washing, avoiding large gatherings and maintaining safe distances in crowded spaces.
Over the past year, Save the Children in Zambia has worked with the government, communities and families in an urgent effort to slow or halt the transmission of COVID-19. These actions have included:
- Producing child friendly information, education and communication materials on COVID-19 in various local languages.
- Using TV, Radio and mobile public address systems to reach marginalised communities with information.
- Ensuring continuity in the provision of health service at community level through training of community health workers in COVID-19 prevention and control, and provision of health care in the context of COVID-19. We have further supported selected health facilities with with infection, prevention and control commodities such as hand washing soap, hand sanitizers, face mask and gloves.
- Working with the Ministry of General Education to package take home food rations for children when schools closed. When schools reopened, we provided children with hygiene kits, hand washing facilities and reusable facemasks. We are working with the Ministry of General Education and partners to deliver remote learning materials to children in hard to reach areas. As an implementing partner under the Global Partnership for Education, we are running radio based messages to help learners catch up with the missed lessons.
- Participating in the COVID-19 National Technical Working Group coordination meetings.
These actions form part of a range of child-focused interventions rolled out by Save the Children to help Zambia’s most marginalised communities protect themselves during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Malama Mwila, Communications and Campaigns Manager for Save the Children in Zambia, said:“Children are not immune to COVID-19 and can play a key role in helping reduce transmission rates, not just among themselves, but in informing parents and other younger children too. In general, infectious diseases spread more quickly amongst children who may be more tactile, and less able to understand instructions about hygiene and sanitation. Simple measures such as wearing facemasks correctly, handwashing, avoiding large crowds and age appropriate information can be lifesaving.”
Mr. Mwila continued: “The evidence from our Rapid Gender Analysis shows that impacts of COVID-19 extend beyond health and interference to education – they also carry other risks to marginalised children. As pressures mount on low income families, children have been forced to work to bolster family incomes, and girls especially face a disproportionate burden of caring for family members who contract the virus or taking care of younger children while others may be married off. If plans are not put in place urgently, some children run the risk of never returning to school at all.”
While schools have reopened, the number of contact hours in a lot of schools have reduced as one teacher narrates: “The children in grade one used to learn every day for 4.5 hours but because of the restrictions, they only learn for 2 hours in a day for only twice or thrice a week. That means on average contact hours have dropped from 20 hours in a week to less than 6-4 hours per week. We need more classrooms and desks. Currently we only have 5 classrooms catering for over 400 children so more classrooms are needed.”
The pandemic has created social and economic constraints for the vulnerable as a woman in Lusaka narrates: “I used to own a hair salon but the government closed salons and barbershops to stop the spread of the coronavirus. By the time they allowed us to reopen, I had lost my capital and failed to reopen my salon. Many young girls have fallen pregnant since the coronavirus came. I worry greatly for my daughter whenever she leaves the house.”
With 85,502 confirmed cases, Zambia has the second-largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region behind only South Africa. If the number of new COVID-19 cases continue on this path, rural areas will particularly be hard hit as they lack infrastructure, essential equipment and electricity. The investment in oxygen supplies is desperately needed not just for COVID-19 but for the treatment of pneumonia, hypertension, asphyxia, sepsis and other conditions.
In efforts to protect a generation from the impacts of COVID-19, Save the Children is calling on the government and donors to invest in health services, school infrastructure, social safety nets and community-based strategies to ensure children and their families have the income, support and information they need.
For more information, please contact:
Malama Mwila - Communications Manager
Notes to the Editor:
Save the Children has been working in Zambia for over 30 years with government line ministries, civil society organizations, media and members of the public in the promotion and protection of children’s rights through various programmes. Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Our mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.