Saturday, 31 December 2016

Diseases Increase, Fish Die As Pollution Continues In Chingola

Sandwell Sinyangwe pointing at the polluted Shimulala stream
By Paul Shalala in Chingola

Pollution in the copper mining town of Chingola is not a new story.

For decades, this town has been suffering for indiscriminate pollution of its streams and now residents are fed up.

Chingola hosts Konkola Mine and Nchanga Open Pit mines which are run by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a Vedanta-owned firm.

On Friday, over 100 Chingola residents met at Protea Hotel to complain about pollution and give evidence of the effects of the problem.

Their complaints follow last week's comments by Chingola Mayor Titus Tembo in which he indicated that KCM had polluted streams in the town.

"KCM has polluted the Mushishima stream killing fish. Because of poverty, our people are eating the dead fish and some have become sick," said Mr Tembo when Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma paid a courtesy call on him on Thursday last week.

And at the meeting which was organized by Action Aid Zambia, residents had a chance to air out their anger over the challenges they are going through with unsafe water.

A concerned resident Bernadette Malamba has documented over five deaths caused by polluted water in the district.

"We have documented five deaths so far. Most of them are children who die of unsafe water. We have nowhere to complain to. People's sight being affected due to pollution in the Shimulala stream," said Ms Malamba who also works for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

Ms Malamba has been campaigning against pollution in Chingola since 2005 and she has a list of suspected cases of pollution in about three streams.

Her words have been echoed by other residents who face similar challenges.
Chingola residents during the meeting at Protea Hotel

"The Zambia Environmental Management Agency has failed us. Every year they come here to test water but nothing tangible comes out. Mining companies keep polluting our water and ZEMA is quiet," said Kennedy Mulenga who heads a local pressure group on pollution.

Across Chingola, cases of diarrhoea and other diseases are common.

A visit to Shimulala village on the outskirts of Chingola town reveals the full extent of pollution.

In the past decade, residents had gardens along the Shimulala stream but today, they have all disappeared.

Downstream, indigenous streams have dried up due to high levels of copper and acid in the stream.

"This stream has been polluted. It has high levels of copper, acid and other minerals. When we plant crops, they do not grow. This has led us to stop planting rape and cabbage because they dry up. This has brought poverty in the village, we are suffering," said Davies Sinyangwe in an interview.

Another resident Hildah Nakumwenda has this to say: "Water from this stream is not healthy. When you cook beans, it does not get ripe. When you use the water for bathing, it leaves you with rush. We used to support our children with school fees from the gardens but now they have abandoned school because we cant afford to pay the fees."

Action Aid Zambia, a member of the global non governmental organisation championing the rights of underprivileged people in society, has joined the residents of Chingola in calling for action on pollution.

"We have received several cases of human rights violations in the form of pollution. We shall take on these cases and help the residents find a solution to this problem. The problem we have found is that ZEMA does not engage the community in these issues," said Jeston Lunda, Action Aid Zambia Manager for Agriculture and Environment.

And in some areas like Maiteneke and Sopano, instead of receiving clean running water from Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company, residents are supplied with brown water.

"It seems Mulonga Water does not treat its water. When Konkola Copper Mines releases that dirty water from the mine, it flows into the Kafue river where Mulonga collects its water. They do not even treat it and supply us like that," said Charles Mubanga, a resident of Maiteneke.

And Sabrina Mule, a resident of Sopano also complains of the brown water: "We are tired of being sick with this brown water. We need a solution as soon as possible before we all die of diseases."

But Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company Public Relations Manager Deborah Kangende says the brown water is safe for drinking.

"We have a number of residential areas in Chingola who are supplied with brown water from KCM. That water is safe because we conduct tests before we supply it. That colour comes out because of the reaction from the minerals and chlorine which we add to purify it," said Ms Kangende in an interview.
The Shimulala stream

Recently, KCM Chief Executive Officer Steven Din acknowledged receiving a petition from Chingola residents over pollution. 

This was after Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma asked him about the many cases residents briefed him on pollution.

Mr Din promised that the mining giant would look into their concerns.

The seven paged petition contains several detailed cases of water and air pollution which are all blamed on KCM, Zambia's largest mining investor.

Aerial pictures of suspected polluted areas and results of PH tests on water are all tabulated in the petition.

"We as residents have since witnessed an increase in acid mist which is chocking residents in the western part of Chingola around Mwaiseni and Chiwempala, the most recent incident being reported on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th December, 2016. This is further exacerbated by the lack of mist suppressants," reads part of the petition.

The petition was delivered on 14th December to KCM with copies being made available to the two area Members of Parliament in Chingola, Councillors, the Ministry of Finance, the Zambia Development Agency and the Zambia Revenue Authority.

KCM is among seven major mining firms which are under investigations following the discivery of high levels of sulphate in the Kafue and Mwambashi stream three weeks ago.

The pollution forced the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to shut water supply to the city of Kitwe, leaving the over 500,000 residents of Zamhia's second largest city without water for two days.

Results from the investigations by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency are yet to be released.

The other mining firms under investigations for pollution are NFC Africa Mining, Chambeshi Copper Smelter, Chambeshi Metals, Sino Metals, Bollore Africa Mining and Mopani Copper Mines.

Friday, 30 December 2016

An Overview Of Zambia's Political Scene In 2016

President Lungu unveils the amended constitution
By Paul Shalala

2016 was a year which started with landmark decisions which would shape the future of this country.

On January 5th, President Edgar Lungu assented to the amendments of the republican constitution, bringing on board several changes which the Zambian public had yearned for years.

These are clauses and articles which the public had consistently submitted to successive constitution review commissions.

Some had described President LUNGU’s decision to allow the amendments as a matter of life and death especially with the 50 percent plus one presidential winning threshold.

This threshold replaced the decades old first past the post which was very controversial, allowing minority presidents to win even with the slimmest of margins.

"The 50+1% threshold worked very well this year. It helped the people of Zambia choose a popular president," said William Nyirenda, S.C. a prominent Kitwe lawyer in an interview.

Further, the 1996 amendment which brought the requirement for presidential candidates to have both parents born in Zambia was scrapped off.

This brought to an end the infamous parentage clause which barred most politicians to run for the highest office in the land.

Among the most popular clauses in the amended constitution was the Vice President running mate clause.

This clause forced political parties to have a presidential candidate and their running mates during the run up to the August 11 general elections.

Secondly, it is in 2016 when Zambia adopted a definite date for general elections: the second Thursday of August every after five years.

This put to rest the old practice of sitting presidents choosing the election date.

This usually did not go well with the opposition because sometimes it would play well to the incumbent if they chose a closer date.
Zambians voting during the general elections on August 11

Another significant addition to the constitution was the adoption of dual citizenship which had been championed by Zambians in the diaspora.

Since then, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has even come up with the diaspora policy which is expected to help Zambians abroad in taking party in the development of the motherland.

According to the constitution, all matters of citizenship are to be administered by the Citizenship Board which is yet to be established.

On the local government scene, the amendments gave universal suffrage to the election of Mayors and Council Chairpersons.

For the first time since the return of multi-party politics 25 years ago, Zambian voters elected their heads of city, municipal and district councils as opposed to the old systems were councilors would vote for their city fathers.

However, this amendment brought about a huge debate whether the Mayors and Council Chairpersons had executive powers or not.

"We can not have two chief executive officers at the local authority: the Mayor and the Town Clerk. The Mayor is not executive as claimed by many, the constitution is clear that the Town Clerk will continue being chief executive while the Mayor is the political head of the policy formulation process," said Alderman Patrick Tembo, a long serving Councillor in Kitwe and former Vice President of the Local Government Association of Zambia.

A number of young Mayors and Council Chairpersons were elected across the country.

The youngest are Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kangombe, Luanshya Mayor Nathan Chanda and Kabwe Mayor Prince Chileshe who were all elected at the age of 31 in August.

In legal affairs, this year’s constitutional changes created the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeal.
Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kangombe and his wife

The constitutional court did not even have chance to settle down as it was quickly involved in resolving disputes arising from the August 11 general elections.

Despite its ruling over the opposition’s appeal of the re-election of President Lungu, the cases are still being heard in the lower courts.

In terms of the general elections held in August, the ruling Patriotic Front secured another five year term after a tightly contested polls.

The party also increased its number of MPs to 83 while the opposition UPND came out second but increased its numbers in Parliament to 58.

Other parties with MPs in the house are MMD (4) and FDD (1).

Interestingly, the adoption process both for the PF and UPND was marred with protests and surprising decisions which forced most preferred candidates to contest as independents.

Both the PF and the UPND did not release their list of adopted parliamentary candidates before the nomination date.

In some instances, two candidates from a single political party showed up at nomination centers with nomination papers and it had to take dialogue and phone calls for only one candidate to file in on that respective party ticket.

According to some observers, this situation led the country to have an unprecedented number of 14 independent Members of Parliament.

Keembe MP Princess Kasune Zulu
This was a huge rise from three independent MPs who had been elected countrywide after the 2011 general elections.

In terms of gender representation, the men continue to dominate though the number of female MPs has risen from 22 in the 2011 to 2016 term to 30 female MPs after this year's elections.

Among those elected female MPs is Princess Kasune Zulu, Zambia's first lawmaker to openly declare that she is living with HIV.

She is the UPND's MP in Keembe Constituency.

The elections also saw a number of MPs who had lost their seats in 2011 returning to parliament after a five year absence.

Notable among them are Mubika Mubika (Shang'ombo), Douglas Syakalima (Siavonga) and Peter Daka (Msanzala).

However, one of the huge setbacks of the nation was the collapse of the referendum which was held alongside the general elections.

Very few Zambians voted in the referendum, failing to reach the 50% threshold to validate the process.

"It is very disappointing that the campaign for social and economic rights in the Bill of Rights was politicized. People were told that the Bill of Rights had gay rights and they shunned it. We lost a big opportunity," said Gerald Mutelo, the President of Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates on a live TV programme on TV1 recently.

Indeed, 2016 was a watershed moment in the political field in Zambia.

It is the year when many of those contentious clauses and articles were enacted into law, making the governance system more user friendly.

However, 2017 may not be as interesting as 2016.

But we wait and see how the political scene will unfold.

Like they say, in politics there is no dull moment.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Zambia Air Force Joins In Fight Against Army Worms

Army Worms eating grass
By Paul Shalala

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has deployed the Airforce to join in the fight against army worms which have so far attacked maize fields in six of country’s 10 provinces.

Army Worms attack in their thousands and they eat and destroy any vegetation on their way.

The creatures have wrecked havoc in maize fields.

Maize is Zambia’s staple crop which millions of citizens eat on a daily basis.  

According to a statement by President Lungu’s press aide Amos Chanda, the head of state has directed the Zambia Air force, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit and the Ministry of Agriculture to curb the spread of army worms.

“The Zambia Air Force has since began to airlift chemicals to Ndola on the Copperbelt, Chinsali in Muchinga Province, Kasama in Northern Province and Chipata in Eastern Province. The District Agriculture Coordinators for Lusaka, Luapula and North Western Provinces have already collected the chemicals,” stated Mr Chanda.

He revealed that the President had directed that the chemicals that were purchased under emergency operations should be distributed to all parts of the country.

“The President is concerned that if the outbreak of the worms is not controlled speedily, the crop yield for 2016/2017 may negatively be affected. He has assured farmers that all provinces will receive the chemicals,” he stated.

The army worms were first spotted in Kitwe District on the Copperbelt last month.

Within two weeks, the worms spread to the whole district and by last week they had destroyed over 300,000 hectares of maize.

This forced the district administration in the area to buy and distribute cyclone and nimbecidine to farmers to help them halt the spread of the army worms by spraying it in the fields.

Last week, Agriculture permanent Secretary Julius Shawa confirmed that nine of the 10 districts on the Copperbelt had already been invaded by the army worms.

“Farmers who are suspicious of any creatures in their maize fields must report to the nearest agricultural office. Those who are sure its army worms, please buy cypermethrin at any nearest agro shop and spray,” said Mr Shawa.

Army worms were first reported in several parts of Zambia in 2013.

That time, they destroyed maize fields and left farmers with losses.

Since the directive was made yesterday, the Zambia Air Force has continued flying the chemicals to various provinces.

The allocation for the Copperbelt landed in Ndola yesterday and today, Provincial Minister Bowman Lusambo is physically distributing the chemicals to Lufwanyama, Mpongwe and Kalulushi Districts.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

300 Hectares Of Maize Destroyed By Army Worms In Kitwe

Army Worms on a maize stock
By Paul Shalala

Over 300 hectares of maize have so far been destroyed by the infamous army worms which have invaded Kitwe in the past three weeks.

Kitwe District Agricultural Coordinator Dr. Raphael Muyaule says the outbreak has left over 150 farmers affected, threatening this year’s harvest.

Dr. Muyaule says the damage caused by the army worms is worrying.

“We are very worried by the damage these army worms are causing. All parts of Kitwe are now affected and from our assessment, most maize fields have suffered more than 40 percent damage,” said Dr. Muyaule.

He said this in an interview today in Minsaka area where he accompanied Kitwe District Commissioner Chanda Kabwe who donated chemicals to farmers affected by the army worms.

And Mr Chanda urged the farmers to ensure they utilise the chemicals well and reduce the impact of the invasion.

“Spray the chemicals when you are sure it will not rain that day because once it rains, the chemicals will be washed away,” said Mr Chanda.

In Minsaka area, several farmers have lost their maize to the army worms.

Some of the affected farmers are worried that the creatures will reduce their harvest next year.

Alick Nguni who has lost his five hectare field of maize to the army worms says he hopes government can help him survive next year.

Other farmers are also crying foul.

Agriculture officers preparing chemicals
“I had a good harvest last year and bought a canter for myself. But now am worried because these army worms have destroyed my crop,” said Namakando Liwanga.

Government has bought cyclone and nimbecidine chemicals which it is distributing to the affected farmers.

So far, farmers in Minsaka and Luongo areas of Kitwe have received their chemicals today.

Officers from the Ministry of Agriculture have since been dispatched to various parts of the city to sensitise farmers on how to mix the chemicals and spray it on the affected maize.

Army worms, whose scientific names are spodoptera exempta, are making their second appearance in Zambia in three years.

During their first invasion in 2013, the creatures destroyed crops countrywide.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Army Worms Invade Kitwe, Destroy Maize Fields In Kamfinsa

Agricultural officers checking the worms
By Paul Shalala
Army Worms have resurfaced in Kitwe and destroyed maize in much of Kamfinsa area.
The worms have so far attacked and eaten maize in five farms.

These little creatures have wrecked havoc in the area and farmers are crying.

Moving from one field to the other in their thousands, these creatures are leaving a trail of destruction.

Kitwe District Agriculture Coordinator Dr. Raphael Muyaule says the outbreak is not very widespread and should not alarm the farmers.
"We have sent officers on the ground and i can tell you that the army worms have not invaded the whole of Kitwe but a few areas. They are actually in the early stages of their invasion," said Dr. Muyaule.

He says the worms are hatched from eggs laid by moths and the larvae grows into the destructive army worms.

"Because of the short dry spell we had, the eggs have hatched and the army worms have been born. But we are lucky because the rains are falling and this reduces the spread of these creatures."

Dr. Muyaule has further advised farmers across Kitwe to report any suspicious looking creatures in their fields to the nearest agriculture office.

And the farmers who have been hit hard by the army worms are crying.

"I live in the Police camp and i have a farm in this area. For the past one week, these army worms have destroyed our crops. Am appealing to government to help us with chemicals to kill them," said Aliness Mwanza.

Other farmers are already predicting a poor harvest due to the army worms.

Last year we had bad rains and we did not harvest well. This year we thought we were free but these creatures may just wipe out our crop and leave us in poverty," said John Ngambi, another farmer who has lost his crop to the army worms.

The army worms have also been spotted in the neighbouring districts of Luanshya and Ndola. 

Zambia first experienced the destrution caused by army worms in 2013.

In that year, the army worms destroyed maize fields in various parts of the country.

The creatures were spotted in all the 10 provinces and caused irreparable damage to the country's staple food.

According to Wikipedia, the African Army Worm, whose scientific name is Spodoptera Exempta, is capable of wiping out grasslands and fields in a matter of weeks.

It adds that the army worm is a moth which increase in numbers during a dry spell.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Investigations Into Kafue River Pollution Completed

An aerial view of the Kafue river on the Copperbelt
By Paul Shalala in Ndola

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has completed its investigation on seven mining firms on the Copperbelt over last week's pollution of the Kafue River.

ZEMA Northern Region Manager Gift Sikaundi says the investigations team finished collecting samples from all suspicious sites and handed them over to three separate laboratories.

"We have handed over the samples to the Water Resources Management Authority laboratory in Lusaka, the Alfred Knight laboratory in Kitwe and the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company laboratory in Kitwe. We expect the results after seven days," said Mr Sikaundi during an interview at his Ndola office.

He has disclosed that during the investigation, ZEMA inspectors collected samples from various dams, reservoirs and streams in Chingola and Mufulira.

On Thursday last week, ZEMA launched investigations against the seven mining firms after sulphate was detected in the Kafue River the source of water supply to Kitwe, Kalulushi and Chambeshi.

The seven mining firms all discharge water into the Mwambashi stream which eventually ends up in the Kafue river.

The companies being investigated are Konkola Copper Mines, Mopani Copper Mines, NFC Africa Mining, Chambeshi Copper Smelter, Chambeshi Metals, Sino Metals and Bollore Africa Mining.

The investigations team took four days to collect samples from all water reservoirs and dams where the firms dispose off their effluents.

The discovery of the sulphate on Monday last week forced Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to shutdown its water supply to its customers for two days, leaving Kitwe's over 500,000 residents without clean running water.

The supply was only restored after the utility neutralised the sulphate.

The pollution is believed to have happened in the Mwambashi stream in Chingola District.

The investigators further believe that the contaminated water flowed from the Mwambashi stream to the Kafue river where Nkana Water and Sewerage Company detected it.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Zambia Investigates Seven Major Mining Firms For Pollution

ZEMA inspectors after collecting samples at Muntimpa Dam
By Paul Shalala

Zambia's environment watchdog has launched investigations on seven major multi-national mining firms following the polluting of Kafue river, the source of drinking water for the country's second largest city Kitwe.

Four of the seven companies being investigated are Chinese owned.

The largest mining investor in Zambia, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) a subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources PLC, Mopani Copper Mines a subsidiary of the Anglo-Swiss multi-national Glencore, Chinese owned NFC Africa Mining PLC, Chambeshi Metals, Chambeshi Copper Smelter, Sino Metals and Bollore Mining Limited are all under investigation.

On Monday, the Kafue river and its tributary Mwambashi were polluted with sulphate which forced the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to shut down its operations, leaving the  over 500,000 residents of Kitwe without running water for 48 hours.

On Thursday, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) launched the investigations on the seven mining firms because they all discharge their effluent into the Mwambashi stream which was the source of the pollution.

In the past three days, ZEMA inspectors have been testing water at Muntimpa Tailings Dam in the mining town of Chingola where KCM discharges its effluent before it flows into the Mwambashi stream which eventually offloads its water into the Kafue river.

The lead investigator in the exercise Gift Sikaundi says results of the tests carried out at Muntimpa Tailings Dam are expected to be made public next week on Monday.

"We have collected samples from Muntimpa Tailings Dam and we are analysing them in the laboratory right now. We are hoping to get a conclusive result on Monday," said Mr Sikaundi who is also ZEMA's Manager for the Northern Region of Zambia.

He also revealed that the institution wrote letters to all the seven multinational companies demanding that they hand over their test results from their respective discharge for the past 30 days but only four of them have complied.

"So far, only KCM, NFC Africa Mining, Chambeshi Copper Smelter and Mopani Copper Mines have submitted their reports. The remaining three didn't submit by yesterday's deadline. Despite that, we will conduct our own investigation and catch the firm which polluted the water."

Zambia's water regulator the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) has also joined the probe.

Inspectors from WRMA today joined their counterparts from ZEMA during their investigations in the mining town of Chingola.
ZEMA is a government agency under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources while WAMA is under the Ministry of Energy and Water Development.

Of the seven being investigated, KCM has more allegations of pollution than the remaining six.

ZEMA Inspector Ray Chifwaila testing the acidity of the dam
In the past, the Indian-owned mining giant has been tried, convicted and fined by the Zambian courts for pollution.

The firm and its Indian parent company Vedanta Resources PLC are currently sued in London for polluting over 1,800 Zambian citizens.

And a Kitwe-based environmental activist Lovemore Muma says ZEMA needs to be more proactive when dealing with pollution cases in the mining sector.

"The current case where ZEMA is investigating the pollution of the Kafue river shows that ZEMA is reactive and not proactive. Imagine if Nkana Water and Sewerage Company did not detect the sulphate in the river, was ZEMA going to detect it? What is happening to other rivers which are not tapped by water utilities? This is worrying," said Mr Muma who is the Executive Director of The Earth Organisation, a civil society organisation which campaigns for the environment.

He further says ZEMA must be strengthened by being transformed into an authority which will have powers to prosecute environmental offenders as opposed to just investigating and publishing its findings.
This case has received considerable media attention in the country.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Environmental Inspectors Start Probe On Kafue River Pollution

ZEMA inspectors picking samples at Mutimpa Tailings Dam
By Paul Shalala in Chingola

The Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) has commenced investigations to establish the mining firm which polluted the Kafue river with sulphur forcing the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to shutdown water supply to Kitwe for two days.

On Monday, the utility detected high levels of sulphur in the river and shutdown its water supply to Zambia's second largest city Kitwe, leaving its over 500,000 residents without water.

Water was only restored late on Wednesday after Nkana Water and Sewerage Company neutralised the sulphur in its reservoirs.

According to the utility, sulphur was discharged into the Mwambashi stream and it flowed into the Kafue river where the utility gets its water for residents of the mining towns of Chambeshi, Kitwe and Kalulushi.

Bivan Saluseki, the spokesperson for Nkana Water and Sewerage Company said the shutdown was done to protect people's lives and the firm was doing everything possible to ensure no one is harmed.

And Kitwe District Commissioner Chanda has pointed the blame at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), the country's largest mining investor which runs mines in several towns on the Copperbelt region.

"As government we will not allow KCM to continue polluting our water sources. We shall put up punitive measures to stop this practice," said Mr Kabwe in a telephone interview.

KCM is a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources PLC, a London-listed mining firm.

The firm runs the Konkola and Nchanga mines in Chingola.

Today, a team of inspectors from ZEMA visited Muntimpa Tailings Dam in Chingola's Kasompe area to test the water for sulphur.

Muntimpa is the largest tailings dam in Zambia and its estimated to hold over two million cubic meters of tailings material from KCM's operations.

The dam contains both natural water from nearby streams and effluent from the mines.

Water from this dam flows into the Mwambashi stream which discharges its water into the Kafue, one of Zambia's largest river
Water flows out of Mutimpa Dam into the Mwambashi stream

The inspectors were led by Ray Chafilwa, a Kitwe-based ZEMA inspector.

They collected water samples from various points on the dam and also tested the water for acidity.

The collected water has been taken to a laboratory and results from the samples are expected to be released tomorrow.

This is the second time environmental inspectors from ZEMA have inspected KCM facilities within 24 hours.

KCM is not new to allegations of polluting rivers on the Copperbelt.

It has in the past been convicted and fined by Zambian courts for pollution.

Currently, there is an ongoing court case on KCM and its parent company Vedanta in London were activists have sued the Indian-owned mining giant on behalf of the over 1,800 Zambian residents who have been affected by the alleged pollution.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Zambia’s HIV Prevalence Rate Drops To 12%

A 2016 World AIDS Day billboard in Lusaka
By Paul Shalala
Zambia’s HIV prevalence rate has dropped from 15.5% to 12.3%.
According to results of a joint survey by the United States and Zambian governments released three days ago, 12.3 percent of adults ages 15 to 59 are living with HIV and approximately 46,000 new cases of HIV occur every year.
The groundbreaking survey, the Zambia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA), is a nationally representative, population-based HIV survey which was launched on November 27, 2015.
ZAMPHIA is led by Zambia's Ministry of Health with financial and technical assistance from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
According to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Lusaka, the survey measured the burden of HIV and the impact of Zambia’s HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.
“Over the course of six months in 2016, 12,130 randomly selected households from across Zambia were visited by ZAMPHIA field teams. The teams included nurses and interviewers. Men, women, and children of all ages could participate in the survey, regardless of HIV status,” reads the statement in part.
The survey found that of all persons living with HIV in Zambia, 59.8 percent are virally suppressed, meaning that the amount of HIV virus in an infected individual’s blood is below the threshold that would put them at greater risk for developing HIV-related disease and transmitting the virus to others.
It further found that among the 10 provinces, Eastern Province had the highest prevalence of suppressed HIV viral load at 67% while Northern Province had the lowest at 50%.
Among children, the survey found that 1.3% of them aged 0-14 are living with HIV across the country.
This is the first time that the prevalence rate for the pediatric is being quantified in Zambia.
Zambia is one of the first countries to implement this groundbreaking, detailed population-based HIV impact assessment (PHIA) survey.
According to the US government, the PHIA surveys will be implemented in at least 13 countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2004, the US government, through PEPFAR,  has contributed over $3 billion to the HIV fight in Zambia.
In 2017, the US and Zambian governments will launch the #TestAndStart project which is aimed at helping HIV positive individuals from further spreading the virus by adopting anti-retroviral guidelines recommended by the World Health Organisation. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

GBV, Early Marriage 'Super Girls' Get Entrepreneurial Skills

Some of the Super Girls who received the training
By Paul Shalala in Pemba

They sing joyously and smile as they prepare to attend class.

These are 42 young women of Pemba District in Southern Province, most of whom are victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and early marriages.

Some have gone through beatings, torture, painful divorce and others went through difficult delivery as young mothers.

But in the past two days, they were all smiles at the Pemba Teachers Resource Center to acquire knowledge in business.

These young women live in Pemba, a newly created district which is predominantly rural and whose residents mainly depend on agriculture for their survival, are strong and role models to other women.

In a society where women rarely come out in the open over issues such as wife battery and abuse, the women of Pemba seem to be a rare breed.

They attended a two day training in entrepreneurship being led by Nalituba Mudenda and Nang’amba Chintu, both 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows who spent six weeks at the University of Iowa and University of Nevada –Reno respectively under the US State Department’s Young Africa Leaders Initiative earlier this year.

Nalituba Mudenda conducting one of his lessons
Mr Mudenda is the brains behind Smart Dreams Startup for Young Entrepreneurs, a non profit which aims at building an entrepreneurial mindset among youths and women and helping them grow their ideas into big and attainable businesses.

During the training, he was joined by Ms Chintu who established the Pemba Super Girls Club last year to help female victims of GBV come out in the open and gain enterpreneural skills.

During the traininhg, the 42 women went through courses such as business models, customer segments, record keeping and customer relations.

“The response towards entrepreneurship by these women here in Pemba is overwhelming. Am seeing powerful business women in Pemba, this will reduce on the rate of poverty, child labour, gender based violence because more women will be empowered to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Mr Mudenda who drove over 500 kilometers from the northern Zambian city of Ndola to conduct the free training at his own cost.

He adds that the women have a lot of potential:  “These women have brilliant ideas which when developed can turn into successful businesses. The only challenge many entrepreneurs here face is how to do customer discovery, hence going into wrong businesses.”

For Ms Chintu who started the club without any external funding, the training is a dream come true.

“Of the 42 members, 22 of them stopped school in Grade Nine due to early marriage, pregnancies or GBV while others stopped school in Grade 10. The training on entrepreneurship is a dream come true because I have always wanted to equip them with entrepreneural skills so that they can have  income generating projects whose proceeds can go towards their children’s school fees and opening their individual start ups,” she said.

The Super Girls during one of their computer lessons
Ms Chintu is a journalist whose full time job is that of Pemba District Information Officer at the Zambia News and Information Services, a department under Zambia’s Ministry of Information.

During the workshop, the women also benefited from lectures given by a manager from Investrust Bank who took them in financial subjects such as types of accounts, loan services and products which the bank can use to help the club as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Judith Mwale, one of the beneficiaries of the training, says she learnt a lot.

“The training is beneficial because am being taught to work in a group and the other thing I have learnt is financial management and entrepreneurship,” said Mrs Mwale.

The Pemba Super Girls, who meet regularly for such activities as netball and computer lessons, have become a household name in Pemba.

The group is involved in information sharing activities during their netball games with other women groups in the villages surrounding Pemba town.

These activities include the promotion of taking back female pupils to school so that they can be given another chance to continue with their studies.

The joyous Super Girls after playing netball at Pemba Grounds
This is being done in conjunction with the Ministry of General Education under its re-entry policy which allows girls who have fallen pregnant or who were married at an early age to go back to school and continue with classes.

Last week when Pemba District held activities to commence the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, the Super Girls were instrumental in the marchpast.

One of the Super Girls Egala Kabesha was even honoured by Pemba District Commissioner Reginald Mugoba for defying the odds and taking her husband to court for GBV.

Starting in January 2017, the 42 Pemba Super Girls are expected to start going through literacy classes as a way of keeping them busy.

All these activities are being done with the consent and support of the spouses of those ‘girls’ who are married to avoid conflict in the houses.

For a rural area like Pemba, the support of the spouses to the Super Girls’ activities is critical to avoid further violence in the house when the women return home late from club activities.