CISMAC Zambia's COVID-19 Response
In Zambia, COVID-19 testing capability was established in February 2020 with US and Japanese assistance. The first two cases of COVID-19 were reported on 18 March 2020.
Public schools and universities, as well as restaurants, bars and sports events, were closed 20 March 2020. Travel restrictions were introduced, and social distancing was encouraged.
Those who could were encouraged to work from home, and most shops closed, either as a safety measure for employees or due to lack of customers. In urban areas, many employees were declared redundant as companies closed. Thus, many people lost their income, and the lockdown measures also severely affected those working in the informal sector.
In the last month several of the measures that were introduced to respond to the pandemic have been relaxed. Examination classes in both secondary and primary school and final year university classes resumed at the beginning of June. Restaurants have reopened, as have many shops. However, during the lockdown many people lost their income. This combined with the dramatic depreciation of the Zambian Kwacha (1 USD is now 18 ZMW compared to 10 ZMW 6 months ago) has led to reduced purchasing power and increased poverty levels, particularly in urban areas.
As of 10th August, 8085 cases of COVID-19 have been identified overall in Zambia. Of these, 6806 have recovered and 241 people have died.
Effects on RISE
The lockdown measures have fortunately not had a major impact on the Research Initiative to Support the Empowerment of Girls trial (RISE). In March, April and May all the annual meetings that had been scheduled with headmen and community members at the study schools had to be cancelled, and participants could not be invited to come to their original schools to be interviewed as this would create a risk of participants assembling. Instead research assistants had to visit the participants’ homes and interview them from there. This has slowed down the process of doing follow-up interviews. As schools started to reopen in June, we received permission to do interviews at the schools and hold meetings again as long as the necessary hygienic measures were taken, social distancing was maintained and we were able to provide face masks to participants and research assistants. We currently expect that we will be able to catch up with our follow-up programme and if we make additional investments in the coming months, we will be able to complete the study on time