, 16 April, 2020 / 8:03 AM
At a time when governments across the globe have been forced to expend their resources in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, Bishops in the southern Africa nation of Zambia are encouraging the people of God in their country to reach out to the poor and vulnerable in their midst rather than expect foreign donations.
“Whereas in the past, we could have cried out for help from the international community, this time, we are on our own because everyone is fighting the pandemic and using their resources to save their citizens,” the Bishop Moses Hamungole of Zambia’s Monze diocese told journalists during a press conference Tuesday, April 14.
Addressing members of the Press on behalf of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), Bishop Hamungole added, “Let us not always wait on foreign donors when we also can share in solidarity and support of the Church's ministry to the poor and vulnerable people.”
“We, the Catholic Bishops in Zambia, strongly believe that we can mitigate the suffering of the poor and vulnerable by sharing whatever resources we have among us,” he said and added, “This way, we will contribute towards resources needed to save many of our people from being infected with the virus, from passing it to others, and from dying with the disease.”
Bishop Hamungole who heads the Commission for Social Communications Department of ZCCB further said that COVID-19 has come “at a time when Zambia has been struggling on many fronts to improve the livelihood of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
At least 48 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Zambia; the disease has claimed two lives.
Last year, the landlocked country experienced one of its worst droughts in decades leaving 2.3 million people in urgent need of help according to Caritas Zambia. Earlier this year, the northern parts of the country experienced floods destroying crops.
Referencing these events, the Local Ordinary of Monze who was receiving donated items on behalf of ZCCB probed, “how will people survive now that COVID-19 is already beginning to stretch their ability to recover from these natural calamities?”
Acknowledging the donation from the C&S Investments Limited and its Company Directors, the 52-year-old Prelate thanked the entity for coming to the aid of the Catholic Church in Zambia and assured that “the end beneficiaries of these donated items will be people from all walks of life, regardless of tribe, race, creed and political affiliation.”
The Prelate explained that the donated items will go a long way in mitigating some of the challenges that the institutions, which will directly benefit have been facing.
“As you may already know, the Catholic Church in Zambia runs 59 health facilities situated in all the 10 Provinces. Out of these, 22 are Hospitals and 37 are Rural Health Centres. These have been facing a number of challenges such as inadequate financial resources, materials and drugs during this situation of COVID-19,” he recounted.
Apart from the health care facilities, Bishop Hamungole said that the donations will be shared among orphanages, old people’s homes and a number of hospices.
The Bishop also announced that ZCCB has set up a COVID-19 Response Fund (CRF).
“The fund at this juncture will mainly be used to prevent the spread of the disease in Zambia,” he said.
The fund will also support the health facilities to respond to the pandemic and Church programs that cater for the most vulnerable persons in the society, the Church leader added.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council has pledged 1 million Rand (US$53,700.00) towards COVID-19 relief emergency in their KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province.
The Council, which is chaired by Wilfred Cardinal Napier further said it will “roll-out cash vouchers to 1000 vulnerable families in each of the 11 Districts over the next three months through our Church-based fundraising efforts.”
In their April 11 letter addressed to the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Council also appreciated “the generous and commendable example” set by the Head of State, the Cabinet and the Premiers who pledged a third of their salary to the Solidarity Fund.
“This is a powerful gesture of inestimable symbolic value,” reads the letter seen by ACI Africa.
“We express our full support for your government’s efforts to save lives and in the process ‘flatten the curve,’” they said and added, “We do this even as we stand in solidarity and mourning with the millions around KZN and the country whose very lives are threatened by both the Coronavirus and the extended lockdown.”
South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 in Africa with at least 2,506 confirmed cases; 34 people have died of the virus and 410 others recovered.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa