MANY churches in the capital of Zambia, Lusaka, told not to hold services, as part of an effort to halt the cholera outbreak, which has killed at least 76 people.
Services and other large gatherings in the highest-density areas in Lusaka have been cancelled, and contact at the peace suspended where services are still taking place.
In a letter to churches on 5 January, the General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), Canon Emmanuel Chikoyathe, said: “The cholera epicenters cannot be allowed to hold church programs on Sunday and any other day until further notice.” He went on to say that “church Services can be held in other areas outside these worst hit areas on Sunday as long the highest levels of hygiene are maintained.
“Every church must have adequate and very clean toilets as well as enough clean water. [We] strictly urge all members to avoid handshakes, hugs, and communal foods.”
The RC Archdiocese of Lusaka has stopped all church-sponsored activities until the epidemic is under control, the website Crux reports.
So far it is estimated that more than 3000 people have been infected in Lusaka’s capital.
The Zambian government has begun mass vaccination in the capital in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Nathan Bakyaita, the WHO Representative to Zambia, said that the outbreak was one of the worst for years, but “with this [vaccination] campaign, we can stop cholera in its tracks and prevent an even more devastating epidemic.”
Church leaders in Zambia have also called for “an ongoing process and effort” for peace and justice in the country.
The CCZ joined the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops to issue a statement on “National Dialogue”, which said that there could be no peace without justice in the country.
It says: “True dialogue means a change of heart, attitude, and behaviour. It is a project, an ongoing process and effort. Lack of peace hurts everyone, especially the weak, elderly, the poor, women and children.”
The Churches said that, “despite the public pronouncements that Zambia is a peaceful country, the reality on the ground is different due to many acts of injustice, a growing culture of corruption, incidences of violence and utterances out of deep-seated hatred.”
The leaders also called for Zambia’s politicians to stop insulting their opponents or making the debate toxic.
They said: “These leaders of political parties must restrain themselves and their members from making inflammatory or irresponsible statements.”
Malnutrition is also a problem in the country, especially amongst young children. UNICEF has reported that thousands are affected by the condition.
The international charity World Vision has established a nutrition group in Zambia, Maternal Infant Young Child Feeding, to train local volunteers to help reduce situations in which children are malnourished and underweight.