Zambia and the Heal Project has been affected by COVID-19 like the rest of the world. Zambia has so far experienced 3 peaks, starting in July 2020. National statistics record a total of 210,000 cases and 3,659 deaths but cases and deaths are likely to be an underestimate due to lack of COVID testing, particularly in more rural areas.
The health system in Zambia is generally weak and therefore the COVID-19 pandemic has put additional strain on limited resources. Hospital capacity is low and therefore hospitals became overwhelmed in the two most recent peaks with extreme shortages of oxygen which resulted in many unnecessary deaths.
Vaccination is urgently needed but few vaccines have been sent to the country. There was initial vaccine hesitancy but with successive waves of infection the demand has increased. It is estimated that 292,000 people from a population of approximately 18 million have so far received 2 vaccine doses.
Zambia has responded to the pandemic by increasing public health measures including universal masking, temperature checks and hand sanitisation at entry to public spaces, such as shopping centres. Schools have been closed for prolonged periods during 2020 and 2021 as well as all public gatherings and facilities such as restaurants and bars. Currently all schools are open as are other venues but masks are required in all indoor spaces.
Political and Economic situation
Zambia held a largely peaceful election on 12th August 2021 when there was a transfer of power from the ruling Patriotic Front party (PF) to the United Party for National Development (UPND) with a new president Hakainde Hichelema (known as HH).
The kwacha had been depreciating against the dollar and the country had amassed record debt under the recent PF government. Prices had been increasing. Following the election Zambia has started to tackle the debt crisis and is in renewed talks with the world bank and the International Monetary Fund. The kwacha appreciated sharply against the dollar (and pound).
HEAL PROJECT SCHOOL
The school in the Ngombe district is progressing well with 366 pupils attending – 260 girls and 106 boys. The time the children are enrolled in school ranges from 4 to 8 years old. There are 8 classroom teachers plus 3 part time for computer and sewing classes. There are two sessions for lessons. The first 4 grades report in the morning at 7 a.m, starting lessons at 7.20 a.m, breaking for dinner at 12.00 and leaving school at 12.30. The last 4 grades reports in the afternoon at 12 noon, beginning lessons at 12.40, with dinner at 2 p.m and leaving school at 5 p.m.
Most of the pupils are aged between 14 and 17 years of age when they leave the school having passed Grade 7 in their studies. Previously the government used to charge for school fees in government secondary schools and some parents used to fail to pay for their children stopping at an early age (in Grade 7). But at least there is hope because the new government has promised free education next year for secondary schools which means that all children will be able to continue with their education to reach Grade 12.
The school closed for 3 weeks in June due to the Government lockdown during the worst of the pandemic period, so the pupils were given assignments to be completed at home. They did, however visit the school each day to receive a package of food as most families could not afford to give them a mid-day meal.
Since that time the school has been working normally. In the autumn term the Government set 15th to 25th October as the mid-term break and will resume lessons until 10th December.
The sewing classes too resumed (these are for the women who come from the neighbouring community), and they have been busy sewing dresses in the colours of the Zambian flag for selling in the markets for the Zambian Independence Day on 24th October.
Whilst not in classes the children spend time in the grounds playing football and other games.
We are sending £2,500 per month to cover the cost of the salaries of the teachers and other staff, school books and other teaching requirements, food, electricity, sanitizing liquids, masks, etc.
HEAL PROJECT ORPHANAGE:
The Orphanage in the Chamba Valley near Lusaka has 35 children and young people in their care ranging from 3–15 years of age, 16 boys and 19 girls.
They are all in school. It is too far for them to attend the school in Ngombe and they were in a private school funded by a Dutch charity. However due to the pandemic the charity could not continue funding them so the younger children are at a small charity school while the 12-15 year olds are attending a Government school with their fees being paid for by a private donor.
The vegetable garden is not very productive at the moment because of a water shortage, but the rains should arrive soon. The older boys are however working getting the ground ready and keeping the grass and surrounding areas tidy.
Most of the chickens sold but they were not so profitable due to the bad economy and the increase in the price of chicken feed. The few remaining unsold chickens are, however, laying eggs which are useful in the home. Day old chicks are being purchased with them hoping to be more profitable during the Christmas and New Year period.
There have been a number of achievements of young people at the orphanage.
Mary, Christine, Theresa, Brian, Ethel and Charles are all in universities pursuing their dream careers. Mary is a medical student in her second year at Eden University. Christine is doing a degree programme in environmental health at Levy Mwanaansa University (LMUTH). Brian is in his final year in male nursing at Makeni School of Nursing and has only a remaining few weeks to complete his programme. Ethel is also doing a nursing and midwifery course at the Makeni School of Nursing. Theresa and Charles have been accepted at the Evelyn Hone College, Theresa pursuing a degree programme in physiotherapy while Charles is doing a course as a Laboratory Technician. All these students are being sponsored by individuals and by a church.
It is most encouraging for us to hear of these students for without their years at the orphanage it is doubtful whether they would have achieved their aims.
We are currently sending £1,000 per month to the orphanage, which due to the pandemic is the only money they are receiving so they express their thanks to us for continuing to fund them.
We would like to send our very grateful thanks to all our supporters who continue to send funds to enable us to keep the school and orphanage running. As you can see many children and adults are being helped with the aid of the HEAL Project.
Joyce Ayles (Treasurer and Trustee)