Our Country Director in Zambia, Godfrey Mwelwa, reflects on the impact of Coronavirus and gives an insight into what this has meant for Vision Aid Overseas, working on the frontline of publich health. 

“The whole world is facing Coronavirus together. 

In Zambia, the first case was confirmed in March 2020. Early in the onset of the pandemic, the Government of Zambia put in place measures in line with the Public Health Act, including the mandatory reporting of all people suspected to have Covid- 19 to health officials; the isolation of all suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19, a 14-day mandatory quarantine period for travellers arriving into Zambia from countries with registered cases; and regular washing of hands, social distancing, regular use of sanitizers, use of face masks in public places, restriction of handshakes and hugs, and the closure of places such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, and schools. This meant a pause in the Zambian eye-health programme of Vision Aid Overseas.  

And so, we looked at how we could best contribute to tackling the public health crisis. With thanks to funding from Specsavers, who have supported our work in Zambia for over 10 years, we urgently procured Covid-19 prevention items for donation to the Ministry of Health. These items were distributed to three Eye Health Care Institutions in Lusaka: Vhainama Eye Clinic, Levy Mwanawasa Eye Clinic and University Teaching Eye Hospital.

Items in this support package included 2,344 reusable face masks, 840 bottles of hand sanitizers and 672 bottles of liquid hand washing soap.

Further, in partnership with Orbis International Zambia, VAO was able to procure 3,500 COVID-19 prevention posters and 220 social distancing stickers too.

Good quality public health communication like this is vital. Until July, Zambia experienced relatively low Covid-19 infection rates of around 10-20 recorded infections daily. But this number increased significantly in July 2020 to over 100 per day, reaching 206 later in the month. This sharp increase has been attributed to people having relaxed their adherence to public health measures. But there is now renewed and intensive social and behaviour change communication to improve compliance to the preventive measures. We are proud to be a part of that.

As I write, a number of the public health measures have now been relaxed, but schools are still closed. We expect VAO’s eye health programmes to come back to life in September/October and we will keep you updated'.

VAO's contribution to tackling Covid was recognised at a Government briefing

Covid 19 prevention items were presented to the Minister of Health during the daily Covid-19 press briefing session that was held on Thursday July 23rd, 2020. Dr. Chitalu Chilufya received the donation of the items on behalf of the Ministry. Presenting the donation, Godfrey Mwelwa, the VAO Zambia Country Director acknowledged government efforts at fighting the pandemic and reiterated calls for the general public to take the preventive measures seriously and observe them strictly.

Receiving the donation on behalf of the Government, the Minister of Health expressed gratitude for the gesture and promised that all the donated items will be put to good use. VAO Zambia and Orbis went on to distribute the donated items: 40% to University Teaching Eye Hospital, 30% to Levy Mwanawasa Eye clinic. and 30% to Chainama Eye Clinic.

And we are proud to see this article in the Zambian Times