BRITISH High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Woolley says over K16.2 million has been given to the Ministry of Health through the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Zambia’s COVID-19 preparedness.

Speaking when he met President Edgar Lungu to discuss a range of matters relevant to the UK-Zambia relationship, Wednesday, High Commissioner Woolley said the support given so far only constituted one strand of the UK’s strategy for supporting Zambia to tackle the impacts of COVID-19 in the short term.

High Commissioner Woolley, who was accompanied by the High Commission’s Head of Governance and Human Development Wilf Mwamba and Head of COVID Health Response Dr Sarah Goldsmith, said the UK government was also helping to improve hygiene practices and facilities in seven districts across in the country, including Lusaka, Monze, Kazungula, Livingstone, Mwandi, Mwense and Samfya districts.

“Over £720k or 16.2m Kwacha of support via the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the Ministry of Health and other organisations in Zambia for preparedness in the face of COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing health system strengthening partnership between the UK and Zambia and has included provision of expert training to over 200 health workers, strengthening health surveillance practices at 16 points of entry, provision of essential medical supplies, and preparation of a range of communication materials to support awareness raising amongst health professionals and the general public,” Woolley said.

High Commissioner Woolley said a new partnership between DFID and Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company, to repair existing boreholes to improve the water supply to high density urban areas in Lusaka, had also been created.

“A £450k (10.1m Kwacha) initiative co-funded by DFID and Unilever and delivered by WaterAid in Zambia, to improve hygiene practices and facilities in seven districts across Zambia, including Lusaka, Monze, Kazungula, Livingstone, Mwandi, Mwense and Samfya districts; provision of equipment and logistics capacity worth over £2.7m (60m kwacha) to the Ministry of Health to support the country’s National Action Plan in tackling anti-microbial resistance through reinforcing existing surveillance systems, strengthening laboratory infrastructure, developing human capacity and technical skills and using protocols for appropriate antimicrobial use. The equipment provided includes specialist laboratory instruments and consumables used in the testing of Anti-Microbial Resistance,” he said.

“Following a direct request by the Ministry of Health, provision of an expert medical team that is providing support to: rapid response teams and health facilities with mass screening, clinical care and infection and prevention practices; training and mentoring local staff in the correct use of medical equipment; assessing supply chain and logistics to ensure supplies reach the most affected areas of the outbreak; and further provision by DFID of four vehicles to the Zambian National Public Health Institute to help surveillance teams do monitoring and transport COVID tests.”

High Commissioner Woolley assured President Lungu that this support constituted just one strand of the UK’s strategy for supporting Zambia to tackle the impacts of COVID-19 in the short term.

“We are supporting Zambia with its health system resilience and immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are supporting systems that support the most vulnerable people and small businesses with access to cash to support livelihoods and incomes. We are also enabling a functioning food system that ensures all Zambians’ have access to nutritious and affordable food supply. We are also working with the international community, other partners and the Zambian Government to enable Zambia to move towards a sustainable debt trajectory and access emergency international financing support,” he said.

In the longer term, the High Commissioner reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to working with Zambia in areas including climate change, human development such as social protection and education, growing the economy and job creation.

High Commissioner Woolley also noted the critical role played by UK NGOs, such as WaterAid, SolarAid, PEAS Schools, Build-It International and School Club Zambia, all of whom he had had the opportunity to engage with recently on their COVID-19 responses in Zambia and were providing vital support to vulnerable communities across the country.

Meanwhile, High Commissioner Woolley observed that Covid-19 was a once-in-a-generation threat to the global community which required countries, governments and individuals to all come together to defeat it.

“That is why the UK Government’s response is both global and local. We are pleased to support the Zambian people at a time when His Excellency the President Edgar Lungu has acknowledged the country is going through severe financial circumstances. But we urge all Zambians to remain vigilant and follow health advice of the authorities. It is only through our collective awareness and action that COVID-19 can be defeated,” said High Commissioner Woolley.

And in relation to DFID’s funding support in response to COVID-19, DFID Country Director for Zambia, Steve Beel said said the UK’s partnership with Zambia would always remain a broad one.

“In responding to COVID-19, not only do we look to the funding and expertise provided by DFID in areas such as health, financial inclusion and economic development, but we also recognise the key roles played by UK NGOs, by the Zambian diaspora in the UK, and UK businesses and investors. We see a core part of our role to help bring together all these UK-connected resources and players to contribute to Zambia’s immediate response and future development,” said Beel.