, 12 August, 2020 / 9:34 PM
Members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) have written to Pope Francis expressing their joy and gratitude after the Holy Father wired a donation of €100,000.00 to the people of God in the Southern African country to help vulnerable populations who have been worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disclosing the contents of the letter in an interview with ACI Africa, ZCCB Secretary General, Fr. Cleophas Lungu, said that the Bishops had informed the Holy Father that the financial donation would be put to the use for which it was intended.
“The Bishops were first of all, very grateful to the Holy Father for his continued care, leadership and for responding to the needs of the poor. They thanked him for particularly demonstrating how close he is to the suffering and assured him that the money would be put to good use, just as it was intended,” said Fr. Cleophas in the Tuesday, August 11 interview.
He said that the money, which will be shared equally among all the 11 dioceses in the country will be targeted to the poor, the homeless, the widows and other vulnerable groups irrespective of their ethnic, political and their religious inclinations.
“Already, Bishops in all the dioceses have a list of the needy people who were drawn from parishes and Small Christian Communities,” Fr. Cleophas told ACI Africa.
The ZCCB Secretary General said that the Episcopal Conferences of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi had, together, penned the request to Pope Francis and had each received €100,000.00.
He noted that the help from the Vatican was timely, especially for the people of God in Zambia who, he said, had been worst hit by the pandemic compared to many other countries in the region.
“The situation of Zambia during this pandemic is worse than many countries considering the fact that we are a landlocked country and we depend on other countries, especially our neighbors for supplies,” Fr. Cleophas said, and added, “When COVID-19 struck and lockdown was declared in many countries, we were cut out of important supplies such as food and even medical supplies.”
Since the onset of COVID-19 lockdown in Zambia in March, the country has been grappling with a shortage of medical equipment and personal safety equipment such as face masks and sanitizers, the Zambian Cleric told ACI Africa.
“The testing has not been efficient because the country doesn’t have sufficient equipment,” he further said, adding that those who test positive of the virus are left to their own devices because they cannot afford medical expenses.
COVID-19 lockdown came just as Zambia’s economy was getting on its feet after suffering historical floods that were preceded by one of the worst droughts the country had experienced in decades.
According to a March 23 local media report, shortly after the country proceeded to lockdown, over 700,000 people in different parts of Zambia had been affected by floods.
The country’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) reported that families in the most affected provinces including Luapula, North-Western, Copperbelt, Northern, Muchinga, Eastern, Western and Lusaka were in urgent need of relief food during lockdown.
As for the protracted 2018/2019 drought season, Fr. Cleophas said that over 2.3 million people had been left on the verge of starvation and that their situation had been aggravated by the lockdown.
Caritas Zambia, in February, sent out an appeal for Euro 745,000 to support communities that had been impacted by the drought, especially in the western side of the country where years without rainfall had left perched fields and dried-up rivers.
To support the vulnerable communities, even before the donation by the Holy Father came in, the leadership of the Church in Zambia had embarked on sensitization programs on various communication channels and was providing pastoral response to the people affected with COVID-19, Fr. Cleophas recalled.
“We accompany those who have tested positive with the virus through prayers, counselling and even administering the sacraments of Baptism and Anointing of the Sick. We always assure our people that they are not on their own,” he says.
The Church leadership, through Caritas Zambia and other institutions within the local Church, had also embarked on a humanitarian response, rallying for funds to buy food and protective equipment for vulnerable individuals in the country, regardless of their religious backgrounds.
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