LUSAKA, Zambia, May 25, 2020/ — Since Zambia reported its first case of COVID 19 on 18 March 2020, cases have been on the upswing. During recent weeks confirmed cases rose from 103 on 1 May 2020 to 920 by May 22 with a total number of seven deaths. Zambia has also seen an increase of cases of COVID-19 in the northern town of Nakonde due to a porous border. More than 80 health workers have been affected by the virus countrywide.
On 22 May 2020, the World Health Organization Country Office donated Personal Protective Equipment, emergency equipment for the Emergency Operations Centre and laboratory supplies worth more than seven hundred thousand United States Dollars to the Ministry of Health. This donation has been made possible through the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded Emergency Preparedness, Surveillance and Outbreak Response project and financial support from WHO Headquarters and the WHO Regional Office for Africa. The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita said that WHO working jointly with other United Nations agencies in Zambia was in a race against time to help the country respond and prevent further spread of the virus. “We are supporting the country in containment and mitigation efforts by providing necessary support for coordination, surveillance, infection prevention and control, laboratory, case management, risk communication, logistics and human resource capacity”. Dr Bakyaita was accompanied by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, the UNICEF Representative, Ms Noala Skinner, the UNESCO Zambia Team Leader, Ms Alice Mwewa Saili and the UK DFID Country Director, Mr. Steve Beel.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio said that the donation made to the Ministry of Health by WHO of laboratory equipment and reagents and provision of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers was of paramount importance.
“Health care workers should be able to access masks, gloves, gowns, and other PPE they require to do their jobs safely and effectively. Our health systems are already facing shortages of critical human resources such as doctors and nurses, we cannot afford to lose them now” she said.
The DFID Country Director Mr. Steve Beel stated that the COVID-19 pandemic was a global challenge and that DFID was committed to continue providing support to the government in its response efforts.
When receiving the donation, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama said that the donation was timely because it was targeted at supporting the implementation of the National Contingency Plan for COVID-19. He said the donated items were a high impact investment for the COVID -19 response and that support for the Emergency Operations Centre would be useful for the current emergency and other public health threats. Dr. Malama thanked the United Nations in Zambia, the WHO Regional Office for Africa, WHO HQ and the UK Government for the support rendered towards the COVID-19 response and health development programmes in general.
The United Nations in Zambia has remained a key partner in the country’s multi-sectoral response with the World Health Organization leading the joint effort.