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Do Not Ignore Malaria, HIV, Noncommunicable Diseases amid COVID, Zambian Bishop Cautions

Bishop Patrick Chisanga of the Catholic Diocese of Mansa, Zambia.

The Bishop of Zambia’s Mansa Diocese has, in an audio message, called on the authorities in the Southern African country not to lose sight of other diseases including malaria, HIV, and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) amid COVID-19 challenges.

In the audio message released on the 29th anniversary of the World Day of the Sick, Thursday, February 11, Bishop Patrick Chisanga, however, expresses gratitude to health care providers across the country for their “generosity and selfless service” in the face of COVID-19.

“It is necessary that we look beyond the COVID-19, which has naturally taken centre stage, and remember there are many, many other diseases among us that have continued to cause immense suffering to our people including taking their lives,” Bishop Chisanga say.

He adds, “Let the health system not lose sight of malaria, for example, which is still a huge threat to the lives of many especially children.”

“There are still many people who are suffering from HIV and there are many non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes,” says the Zambian Bishop who doubles as the Director of Health in the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB). 

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Bishop Chisanga goes on to advocate for “uninterrupted provision of health care and medication” in the country.

Last month, the leadership of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) noted that people living with HIV/AIDS have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic

In the message signed by JCAM’s President, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, Jesuits in Africa and the Indian Ocean Island nation of Madagascar said that HIV/AIDS patients suffer firstly because “they are vulnerable to the new virus owing to weakened immunity.”

“Dealing with COVID-19 means diminished resources for HIV and AIDS,” JCAM members further said.

In the February 11 audio message, the Local Ordinary of Zambia’s Mansa Diocese also pays tribute to all frontline health workers for their “commitment and selflessness.”

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“At the time when the whole health care system is so overwhelmed due to the surging cases of COVID-19, this gallant women and men are there 24/7 to respond to emergencies, to take care of those who have been hospitalized and indeed to take care of those who are being managed in their respective homes,” the member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) Capuchin says.

Health workers serve where “the risks involved are huge” and some of them have lost their lives caring for other sick people, he further says. 

He appeals to the Zambian government to direct “all available resources to providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other materials for the safety of those who are saving lives.”

The 49-year-old Zambian Bishop expresses his appreciation for those who spend “days and nights, weeks and months by the bedside of their beloved who are sick.”

“May God look mercifully at your generosity and patience and hope and love with which you serve those who are sick,” the Local Ordinary of Mansa implores in his audio message on the World Day of the Sick. 

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Instituted by Pope John Paul II in May 1992, the World Day of the Sick was first celebrated 11 February 1993 to draw attention to the reality of human suffering through illnesses, to call for action and prayer for the sick, as well as to recognize the contribution of those who serve in the health sector.  

This year, the day was marked under the theme, “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers and sisters (Mt 23:8), A trust-based relationship to guide our care for the sick.”

In his message on the occasion of the annual celebration, Pope Francis called for a path of healing that is grounded on trust and interpersonal relationship between the sick and those who care for them.