World Vision implements a local-level advocacy model in Zambia called Citizen Voice and Action (CVA), a form of social accountability aimed at empowering community members to meaningfully and positively engage the government to improve the quality of services that citizens receive from government institutions.
During this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health set up isolation centres to help prevent the spread of the pandemic by isolating and housing those diagnosed with the disease. One of the Isolation centres was placed right in Kanyikomboshi and Mapesho communities in the Lunga Area Programme (AP) in Mwinilunga. This decision did not sit well with community’ members as they raised concerns onver the safety and protection of their children and their fellow community members.
To get clarification on why the District COVID-19 Response team -through the Health Office- decided to set up the COVID-19 isolation centre in the village, CVA members called for a meeting with all relevant stakeholders from government and community levels. Participants from government included district government officials, i.e. the District Commissioner, Council Chairperson and Director of Health.
During the meeting, the following concerns were presented to the district-level government representatives:
- Selection of the isolation centre location, which community members felt was within the community.
- Consent from indigenous people on the ground
- Lack of awareness-creation on preventive measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, surrounding the isolation centre if the District was to record cases
- Water, sanitation and hygiene issues
- Lack of community engagement with people who stay / live near the isolation centre
- Lack of adequate and decent facilities like toilets and access to clean and safe water at the isolation centre
Speaking at the meeting, Mwinilunga District Health Director Dr. Brian Mwachisowa said government values everyone in the developmental programs aimed to improve the lives of ordinary people.
“Let me start by tendering an apology to everyone for overlooking wide consultation before deciding to set up the isolation centre in the village, I would like to assure you that we are committed to working with you in the fight against COVID-19.”, said Dr. Mwachisowa .“I am very pleased that the community decided to seek clarity for us to move with one goal, purpose and unit.”
Dr Mwachisowa further assured the community members that the government would ensure that the isolation centre has the right assistance from qualified medical personnel: “The government will in the next 21 days improve sanitation and water access, ensure that all the necessary equipment: tools, hand washing facilities, food and many other requirements to the isolation facility are put in place,” he said.
Council Chairperson Allan Kanyemba explained that meetings were held at district level to ascertain where to place the Isolation centre: “I can confirm that preliminary meetings were held at district level when the decision was being made to set up the isolation centre in the village. On behalf of the council, I would like to reaffirm that our mandate is to ensure that the people we work for are happy and healthy.”, he said.
During the meeting, all parties involved reached a consensus to still maintain the isolation centre that was earlier selected to remain so, as renovations had reached an advanced stage. The CVA Chairperson Mr. Godfrey Mwanamoya expressed gratitude to all stakeholders (government officials and community leaders) for their positive response to the invitation from the community members.
“I want to appreciate everyone present here, government officials, World Vision Zambia staff, Traditional leaders and community members for finding time to meet and resolve the concerns regarding the isolation centre amicably through dialogue,” said Mr. Mwanamoya.
The Representative of the traditional leadership and Community Headman, Mr. Anold Katena, urged government officials to undertake preliminary consultations in future whenever there are such undertakings to be considered in the community.