SPECIAL Advisor to the President for COVID-19 Dr Roma Chilengi says he doesn’t feel he must explain his work to the public.
Meanwhile, Zambian author Mayando Mataa has appealed to the Ministry of Health to come on board and support the translation of a COVID-19 book he co-authored into seven local languages.
Commenting on attacks by some people on social media who were wondering if the COVID-19 advisor was still getting paid “for doing nothing”, Dr Chilengi said the pandemic was not over, adding that he was internally the Health advisor to the President.
He argued that the country still had polio, cholera and ebola threats to deal with.
“We are busy getting [ready for] a national vaccination campaign from 14th May. Anyway, we are also busy procuring oxygen plants and setting them up across the country. And Covid is not over anyway although I really don’t feel I must explain my work to the public. Internally, I am the Health advisor to the president. We have polio, cholera and ebola threats to deal with,” Dr Chilengi said.
Meanwhile, Mataa appealed to the ministry to come on board and support the COVID-19 book, lamenting that they didn’t receive any financial support from the government.
“I’m a part author of the only Covid book that has been published in Zambia titled ‘Coronavirus disease what I need to know’. This book was apparently approved by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Health rendered technical support to revise the book so that it has an absolute good scientific and biological backing for the general public, including learning institutions. But when we asked the ministry to translate this book into seven local languages and to distribute it throughout the country, in turn, they wrote back and said they have no funds. Whilst knowing that Covid funds are available through the media. We have been following the media and they are saying they have no funds for Covid and wrote to us to say we should look for donors ourselves,” he said
“So this to us is something that has come to [us as] a surprise. We know that there is a Covid desk at State House there. This book can come in handy because chiefs all over the country have been complaining that their subjects have no understanding. They need literature to understand more about Covid and to make it easier for them to cope with the pandemic. Yes, we used our own money to publish the book, to do all the costs regarding the book itself. We haven’t gotten any financing from the government, not even a cent but we are helping the government in the fight against Covid. We are willing to translate it into seven major local languages of Zambia. We are appealing to the Ministry of Health to come through and support this cause, it’s a noble cause. We need the government to support us.”
But in a separate interview, Dr Chilengi said although government appreciated people’s efforts, their expectations needed to be moderated.
“On my desk in State House, I have received more than 20 CDs of different musicians, proposing communication, which are really appreciated. I have received five different books, cartoons and other tools, I have also received games in terms of draft like snakes and ladders which is supposed to communicate Covid information. What we do with this kind of information, because I may need to present it to State House, if the review from the ministry says ‘okay the information here is factual, it is fine’, what we need to do is find a way of accommodating that as a communication tool to deliver to people. We have a social mobilisation team in the ministry whose job is to look at all the information they have and then pick what things are supposed to really help achieve impact in moving forward,” said Dr Chilengi.
“We really appreciate people’s efforts, but it’s not like you write a book, you bring it to me, then it becomes a best seller in the world. It doesn’t work like that, so depending on the content then if it’s accommodated in the national programmes, then it will move forward. If it’s not accommodated, it means that we are looking for opportunities to accommodate it. So I hear people’s frustrations but I think the expectations have to be moderated because you don’t write a book and expect the government to be the agency for publicizing the book. I think when we agree that the content and the message is good, that’s fair enough. If we have opportunities to either print and mass distribute that’s better but if we don’t, it doesn’t mean we don’t care, it just means we don’t have specific resources to do that, given the available activities and resources.”