Tag Archives: Lusaka

Amid the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Zambia, some practices just have to change

By Charles Nonde, Public Information Assistant

As at 3 April 2020, Zambia had recorded a total of 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with Lusaka, the capital city accounting for 36. While the number of cases might appear low in comparison to other countries on the continent and the world at large, the message from the Government, United Nations and other stakeholders is clear – it is not time to relax!

One underlying issue which is also a threat is the spirit of “Ubuntu” vis-a-vis the ability of people to stay at home, practice physical distancing and cutting non-essential travel. This is a very big challenge. To start with, most of the people depend on public transport, walk in large groups as

Community Volunteers stick COVID-19 posters in Lusaka to encourage behaviour change, posters produced with UN support. Picture courtesy of UNICEF Zambia.

they get to various destinations or the communities in which they live have a very high population density that makes physical distancing a huge challenge. The Government, United Nations and various partners have ramped up support to spread prevention messages to the public through TV, radio and other means including digital platforms. People are encouraged to wash their hands, keep their surroundings clean, practice physical distancing, cut down all non-essential travel, among other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 that has so far claimed about a million lives globally.

In the wake of all these measures, high density areas, streets and public transport are proving to be high risk settings and a cause of concern. Commuters have raised worry as most of the operators have refused to reduce the number of passengers on their buses to the recommended half capacity stating that they would be running at a loss. They have, instead chosen to adhere to the need to provide water and soap for people to wash their hands before boarding buses.

Another dimension is that many people depend on selling various merchandise on the streets of Lusaka to provide for their families. While the Lusaka City Council announced on 1st April 2020 that it was banning street vending and urged street vendors to move into markets dotted around the city and vending in approved areas which have the necessary measures put in place, the news has not been well received as people are worried about how they would support their families if they cannot go on the streets to trade.

A walk in many peri-urban compound settlements shows that it is ‘business as usual’ as people are continuing with their everyday lives as if there was no COVID-19 outbreak, a direct real threat on their lives. Physical distancing is an alien concept and not being practiced – a very serious concern. Some people wrongly believe that they cannot get the virus because they had not traveled out of the country. Misinformation on social media is also giving way to misdirection and a false sense of security.

The danger of COVID-19 is very clear as noted during the daily briefings by the country’s Health Minister, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, who has indicated that the disease had now become a local transmission problem, calling on everyone in the country, especially residents of Lusaka, the epic centre, to be vigilant and follow the laid out guidelines by the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

One cannot help but wonder what more can be done to encourage communities, traders and public service transporters to ensure that people comply with the government statutory instruments and the WHO guidelines. Among many activities as part of the UN Zambia joint response is a UNICEF- supported song entitled “Together We Can” a collaboration by some of Zambia’s finest artists encouraging people to wash their hands and practice physical distancing, among other preventative measures to help prevent the spread of the corona-virus.

As stated by Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General “We are in this together” hence the need for all of us to play our part and ensure the safety of our families, communities and the world at large is safe guarded by doing our part in flattening the curve.

“Zambia has the potential to become a disability champion in the African region” – UN expert

GENEVA / LUSAKA (28 April 2016) – “There are good opportunities to achieve the realisation of rights of persons with disabilities in Zambia,” today said United Nations Special Rapporteur Catalina Devandas, while urging the Government to fully implement a number of well-formulated and well-intended policies and strategies.

Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities during a press briefing at Southern Sun Hotel, Lusaka. Photo credit UNIC Lusaka April 28, 2016.

“Zambia has the potential to become a disability champion in the African region, provided that the Government makes it a priority to implement the policy and legal framework on disability,” Ms. Devandas said at the end of her first official visit* to the country to assess the level of enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities.  

The UN expert highlighted numerous initiatives by the Zambian authorities to improve the protection framework for persons with disabilities, including the strengthening of the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the production of a National Disability Survey, and the significant efforts undertaken to make its social protection framework inclusive of persons with disabilities.

In that regard, she encouraged the Government to continue advancing in the areas of accessibility, education, health, and employment, through the adoption of the necessary measures required to ensure the implementation and enforcement of the Persons with Disabilities Act and other relevant policies.
 
On the other hand, the Special Rapporteur also identified urgent challenges to be addressed, such as the stark disparities between rural and urban areas in relation to accessibility and availability of services. In addition, Ms. Devandas highlighted the situation of persons with albinism, who live in constant fear of being attacked and killed for their body parts, and urged the authorities to protect women and girls with disabilities, who are at heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
 
The human rights expert also drew attention that the situation of persons with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities is of particular concern: “Deprivation of liberty on the basis of disability remains an accepted practice in Zambia,” she said pointing at the widespread assumption that persons with psychosocial or intellectual impairments have no legal capacity due to the lack of ‘mental capacities’.
 
During her stay, the Special Rapporteur visited the Chainama Hills Hospital in Lusaka and the psychiatric unit of the General Hospital in Ndola. “I was particularly appalled by the conditions of the psychiatric unit in Ndola, where persons with psychosocial disabilities are deprived of their liberty without their informed consent, are subjected to seclusion and forced treatment, including forced sterilization of women with disabilities,” she explained.

While she welcomed the efforts undertaken to draft a new Mental Health Bill, she urged the Government “to close the mental health settlements where persons with psychosocial disabilities are confined in remote areas of the country, and to invest instead in adequate and comprehensive community-based supports services.”

Other major challenges encountered by the independent expert are in the area of access to justice. “Complaints of abuse and discrimination by women and girls are mostly overlooked, and the majority of court buildings are inaccessible,” Ms. Devandas said. “Deaf persons are denied access to justice on equal basis with others, as sign language interpretation is not provided in courts.”

The UN Special Rapporteur visited the cities of Lusaka and Ndola, where she met with a variety of senior Government officials, and held discussions with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, other civil society actors, the UN system, and international cooperation actors.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present a report to the Human Rights Council in 2017 on the main findings of her visit.

Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement: https://iconnect.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/,DanaInfo=www.ohchr.org+DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19890&LangID=E


Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in June 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Devandas Aguilar has worked extensively on disability issues at the national, regional and international level with the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, the UN unit responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Bank. Her work has focused on the rights of women with disabilities and the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities. Learn more, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/SRDisabilities/Pages/SRDisabilitiesIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Zambia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ZMIndex.aspx

The UN Zambia in celebrates 68 years of existence

The UN in Zambia celebrated 68 years of existence with a string of activities from October 18 to 29th 2013. Under the UN4U umbrella a discussion was organized and conducted at the University of Zambia, Great East Road Campus.

UN Concert: LtoR Second Lady Charlotte Scott, UN Resident Coordinator Kanni Wignaraja and First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata, sing the theme song for the concert "Youth Arise"

UN Concert: LtoR Second Lady Charlotte Scott, UN Resident Coordinator Kanni Wignaraja and First Lady Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata, sing the theme song for the concert “Youth Arise”

The UN Resident Coordinator in Zambia, Ms. Kanni Wignaraja had a discussion with 300 students on the work of the United Nations, Post 2015 Campaign and Acceleration of the MDGs and the signature issues for 2014-2015 in Zambia under the themes “state of inequalities” and “the condition of young people” all focusing on the youth on Oct 18, 2013. Bulk sms was also used to inform the general public on this significant day in the United Nations by reaching out to 100, 000 mobile subscribers who received some “did you know” facts about the UN.

A free concert was organized at the Barclays Sports Complex that was graced by the first lady Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata and second lady Ms. Charlotte Scott. The concert was dubbed “A young Zambia Arise”. Some of Zambia’s renowned artists performed and educated the mostly youthful audience on the MDGs and post 2015 agenda as a way of raising awareness, about 500 people attended the free concert.

A formal event took place at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel on October 29, 2013, with the UNDP’s Goodwill Ambassador His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway; the Vice President of Republic of Zambia, Dr Guy Scott, M.P; the First President, Dr Kenneth Kaunda; the First Lady, Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata; Chiefteness Nkomeshya, the Guest of Honor the Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Wilbur Simuusa; Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and senior government officials present, the High Commissioners and Ambassadors and other cooperating partners of the UN where also in attendance.

In his remarks the Crown Prince expressed his gratitude at the work that the UN is doing in Zambia and the strides it is making through the various partnerships with government and other cooperating partners, he also reaffirmed

his country’s continued support to the United Nations and the Republic of Zambia.

The out-going Resident Coordinator Ms. Kanni Wignaraja gave a special thanks to the Government and the People of Zambia for their unwavering commitment and support to the United Nations and for its resilience in shaping the future it wants. 250 guest were in attendance.