May 14, 2020

Hon. Emmanuel Mulenga, Minister of Youth Sport and Child Development (l) with Resident Representative, Lionel Laurens (r) during the official launch of the COVID-19 Youth Volunteers Community Outreach project

Lusaka, 12th May 2020 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with The United Nations Volunteers, the Zambian Government and the National Youth Development Council have kick-started a 3-month mass community outreach campaign through the deployment of youth volunteers for door-to-door sensitization as part of a UN-wide support to Zambia to strengthen community preparedness and response to get the number of COVID-19 cases down to zero.

Through the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development and its network, the initiative will mobilize 2,500 community youth volunteers across the country, beginning with 500 volunteers already selected from some of the most affected communities in Lusaka to be trained and deployed. They will work in synergy with other ongoing vital sensitization efforts supported by the Zambian Government, the United Nations, Development partners and other key stakeholders in order to control the spread of the virus.

These volunteers are expected to reach out to as many as two million people from more than 244,000 households, spreading life-saving prevention messaging including the most up-to-date relevant COVID-19 messages ranging from precautions necessary to keep families safe from infection, knowing when to seek medical assistance and welcoming survivors back into the community as a way of reducing stigma associated with the virus.

“My ministry with support from UNDPZambia has joined the fight against COVID19 through the response plan we are launching today. The support from @UNDP is targeting vulnerable communities in Lusaka and at-risk districts including border areas and transit points in Zambia, says Minister Emmanuel Mulenga.”

Speaking at the launch of the GRZ-UNDP mass sensitisation campaign against COVID-19, the UNDP Resident Representative in Zambia, Lionel Laurens said, without community engagement and ownership, it is difficult to fight and defeat COVID-19, referring to the Zambian youths, who constitute over 82 percent of the population, as critical agents of change, whose volunteerism in containing the spread of COVID19 will make the difference in community response efforts.

“Our rallying cry as the United Nations is to leave no one behind.  We have therefore aligned our response to the Government of the Republic of Zambia COVID19 Multi-Sectoral, Contingency and Response Plan and the call by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that the prevention and control measures are implemented and adhered to,” Laurens said.   

The Resident Representative underscored the role of youth as young volunteers, activists, innovators and citizens whose contribution to build a better future can make a difference in the world. He also encouraged youth community volunteers to behave in a safe and responsible manner in the conduct of their upcoming mission. He further commended their commitment to assist vulnerable communities to be better prepared against the virus while promoting the values of volunteering, tolerance and solidarity.

“We have to defend our communities from COVID-19,” said Sharon Mutale, a community youth volunteer as she prepares to go door-door with preventive messages in one of the hardest-hit communities in Lusaka.

Through the UN support, development partners and the Government, a number of educational materials have been created under the Ministry of Health in close collaboration with the World Health Organization..  Under the United Nations Banner, UNDP is working together with other UN agencies to end the scourge, as well as helping the Government of Zambia with socio-economic response and recovery.

Between April and May, Zambia recorded a sharp rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections as well as a shift in the epicenter of the infection from Lusaka to Nakonde, the border with neighboring Tanzania.

As part of its initiative to contribute to community outreach efforts, particularly with a focus on reaching the unreached and leave no one behind, UNDP has committed USD 250,000.00 of its core resources to kick-start an adapted and effective package of interventions in a bid to enhance COVID19 Preparedness and Response for vulnerable groups, which include people living with HIV/AIDS, differently abled people, youth, women, Gender Based Violence victims, truck drivers. More specifically, the community youth volunteer initiative is implemented in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, the National Youth Development Council (NYDC) and with United Nations Volunteers (UNV) has engaged community youth volunteers to raise awareness in vulnerable communities across the country on COVID-19 transmission and preventive measures.

This Project, which aims to ensure no one is left behind in the prevention and control of COVID-19 recognises that Zambia’s youth are a high risk and vulnerable group, who will be reached through community-based youth volunteers who will be trained and equipped to sensitize communities door-to-door on COVID-19 and promote health seeking behaviours among those that may be suspecting infection or presenting symptoms of the virus.

The target compounds under consideration by the Zambia Government in Lusaka District are Chaisa, Mandevu, Chipata, Ma Plot, Garden, Chilulu, Mazyopa, and Marapodi Compounds; Kalikiliki, Mtendere, Kalingalinga, and Chainda Compounds; Chawama, Kuku, Misisi, John Howard, Kuomboka and Jack Compounds; John Laing, Kanyama and Chibolya compounds; Kaunda Square Stage 1, Kamanga and Ng’ombe compounds; and all compounds in Kafue and Chilanga Districts have been targeted.

The launch of the risk communication and community engagement campaign on COVID-19 directly addresses Sustainable Development Goal 3, Good Health and Wellbeing, and marks the beginning of a mass nationwide sensitisation campaign to support the Government overcome this challenge and cushion the potentially devastating impact it may have on vulnerable communities at local levels.