In Zambia, life is all about ‘Ubuntu’, the spirit of togetherness, doing things in community, working as one. For the past four weeks we have been told to self-isolate, to practice social distancing, have no mass gatherings (no church, weddings or funerals), to wear face masks which is mandatory, to wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser and to stay home and work from home if you can.
Togetherness comes apart
Four weeks ago Covid-19 was having no direct impact on our daily lives in Zambia. Suddenly, by 19 March, Zambia had recorded two cases of the virus and one month later we have had 65 cases and three deaths. Government immediately put measures in place. Schools were closed and children told to stay home. Volunteers went into action to make face masks and scrubs, others to provide meals for medical personnel at the Covid-19 centres. Hospital set aside areas specifically for Covid-19 patients, particularly in Lusaka. Medical equipment such as ventilators are in very short supply, and require electricity, oxygen and trained health personnel to operate them. Health officials were recruited and are busy contact tracing anyone who has had any interaction with a Covid-19 positive person. This is a massive job for the Ministry of Health in a country where people live together in communities, often with a whole family living in a one or two room home, where load shedding of electricity is the norm and where medical provision is stretched at the best of times.
Many airlines stopped coming to Lusaka so getting out of the country became difficult, but many of my expat friends managed to leave. Due to pressure from home, I tried to leave on 23 March but my flight was cancelled while at the airport. It was with a surprising sense of peace that I returned to my home in Lusaka.
I am blessed. I have a nice place to stay. I can walk each day at sunrise when fewer people are around. I have food, soap and water. I can connect to friends and family and join in many church services through social media. As schools are closed my job is on hold, but I can prepare some work to use with teachers when we are able to get back to work again.
Many friends and colleagues are not in this same position. No work means no money and no food or soap, never mind a face mask. No church means no money and no income for our pastors. Water is a scarce commodity in some areas of Zambia, even in the compounds in Lusaka. Many people share a borehole or tap as there is no running water. Social distancing when collecting water is non-existent. Some people are comparing Covid-19 to cholera and so not adhering to the guidelines. Many people are HIV positive, diabetic or have hypertension which means they can be more susceptible to contracting the virus. People do not want to get medical advice if they feel sick with symptoms of Covid-19 because of stigma in the community. In the meantime they can be infecting others. Understanding social distancing is a real problem for many. People may not want to work and put their families at risk but, in order to survive, some have no choice.
I am challenged by my fellow Zambian Christians. Many are scared, have no income, are really struggling to survive and yet they thank God daily for his provision and for keeping them safe. They have faith that God is there with them and will protect them in their time of need.
Jesus tells us in John 14, ‘Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ In these days of uncertainty, wherever we are, let us all be assured of God’s protection and of his eternal life for each one who believes in him.
Ubuntu in prayer
- Please pray together with us for the people of Zambia and the church’s witness in these days.
- Pray for the nation of Zambia at this challenging time for everyone. Pray for the health professionals that they manage to contain the virus as much as possible especially in the compounds which are especially high-density areas.
- Pray for my friends and colleagues in CCAP Synod of Zambia at this challenging time and for the General Secretary, Rev Sevatt Kabaghe, as he encourages Christians.
- Pray for me to stay safe and yet still be a witness for Christ by showing kindness and love where possible.
- Pray that as a church we can still practice ‘Ubuntu’ by showing little acts of Christ’s love for the vulnerable in our congregations and communities from a distance and through prayer.
Diane has been the early childhood development co-ordinator with Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Synod of Zambia, since May 2016 and her responsibilities include co-ordinating training activities in early childhood development for primary and community schools and church early childhood development centres.
You can read more about Diane and her work here.
This blog is part of a wider series under the campaign, These Three Remain to help members and congregations during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Visit the These Three Remain hub here.