In the first few months of the pandemic it looked as though Africa had escaped relatively lightly. However, the second wave of the virus is now affecting above all the southern half of the continent, and much more severely this time, since the mutant South African variant is now spreading widely.
Among the countries affected is Zambia. The virus has been spreading rapidly here since December 2020 and the country is insufficiently prepared to deal with it. The hospitals are poorly equipped and there is very little in the way of protective equipment, testing capacity or treatment facilities. For the most part only those patients showing acute symptoms are tested. Other people infected by the virus are not identified and can therefore continue to spread the infection unchecked. So far there are scarcely any vaccines available.
The Zambian bishops‘ conference is now sounding the alarm, since there have also been cases of severe illness and even death among priests and religious. In January, Bishop Moses Hamungole of Monze diocese died of Covid-19 at the age of just 53. In fact priests and religious are at high risk of infection, since they cannot simply self isolate, but have to sometimes be in close contact with the faithful in order to minister to them pastorally. Besides, many religious sisters often work directly in the hospitals and the care of the sick. A particularly alarming aspect is the fact that it is not only among priests in the densely populated urban centres but also among those in remote rural areas that cases of infection have occurred. This was something that nobody had expected. Several parishes have even had to be temporarily closed, since all the priests have caught the virus.
And so there is a need to provide the priests and religious with suitable protective equipment such as facemasks, visors, disinfectants and other protective clothing. These are urgently needed, but very expensive. And needless to say, the economic problems resulting from the pandemic have also hit the Church very hard. The suspension of Sunday Masses and the school closures have led to a sharp loss of income, income which is vital to the survival of the parishes. So the Zambian bishops have appealed to ACN for help to provide personal protective equipment, at least for those priests and religious working in the dioceses most severely affected by the pandemic. We want to provide help quickly, since there is a fear that the cooler season, which begins in Zambia in April, could bring about a further increase in the rate of infections.
So far during the pandemic we have helped a total of 1486 priests and religious sisters, in ten of the dioceses of Zambia, for personal protective equipment, giving a total of 67,400 Euros.
Now we have promised an additional 24,600 Euros for the 538 priests and religious in the three dioceses of Chipata, Kabwe and Kasama, so that they can continue their pastoral ministry with some degree of protection and at the same time protect others from infection.