World over, there are more than 821 million people who regularly go to bed hungry, out of which over 100 million suffer from acute hunger, largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change and economic downturns. These are the people who have been drastically impacted by the economic and physical consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has moreover adversely increased the depth of hunger globally.
Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the everyday routines of human lives, and impacted the poor and vulnerable families, due to the resultant lockdown. While the world’s attention has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic for past months, and rightly so, with a global death toll of over 285,000, the secondary impacts of Covid-19, including a looming “hunger pandemic” and “poverty tsunami”, have not been taken seriously. Experts warn that deaths from secondary impacts — poverty, hunger, diseases, and violence exacerbated by the pandemic — may dwarf the number of those who die of the novel coronavirus itself.
Though African governments, like their counterparts in other regions of the world, have mobilized to get basic food supplies to their most vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 lockdown, the stop-gap measures implemented by Africans governments were put together hurriedly, without careful planning or long-term strategizing, and they are not sustainable in the medium term. African governments are also faced with a key hurdle of reaching out to those vulnerable families, especially in remote communities across the continent.
Therefore, to save lives and truly reach out to the vulnerable in the society, many more people would have to step up support and provide food for families, who are struggling during these unprecedented times, in their communities. Let take a clue from Dr Elizabeth Nkumbula – Lungu, former CEO of Zambia Workers Compensation Board, who recently demonstrated her commitment towards cushioning the impact of the pandemic on the lives of vulnerable people, through a KickOut Covid-19 Project for Copperbelt that was undertaken on 20th May 2020.
Dr Nkumbula-Lungu is currently a board member of the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development (CELD). She also serves as a Board Member on a Number of Institutions Including Zambia Forest and Forestry Industries Corporation, Real Estate Investment Zambia and Mulungushi University. She has held various key strategic senior management positions, in the largest housing finance institution in Zambia that included northern regional accountant and manager, manager banking operations and director banking operations which required significant financial experience in strategic vision alignment, team management and effective execution cutting across many disciplines.
Compassionately, she watched on ZNBC TV news about five families of housemaids in Kitwe who lost their jobs due to COVID -19 and were suffering. Dr Nkumbula-Lungu was moved to donate 265 face masks, 218 hand sanitizers, and 25 handwashing soaps, 60 pair of gloves, 100 shoe covers, four safety goggles, and three safety gowns. She also donated food items including 60 bags of 25Kg mealie meal, five bottles of cooking oil five packets of Sugar. The total cost of all these items was K15, 000 (about 818 USD), a little, yet so much for the survival of the poor and vulnerable in our communities.
In the same vein, when Dr Nkumbula-Lungu was requested by the Lusaka-based President of Sports in Action and Special Olympic Zambia, Dr Clement Chileshe, to donate to the vulnerable children in Kitwe and Ndola, she called upon my family and friends, and they put their efforts together to save lives by contributing whatever we could to target 200 differently-abled children in Kitwe – “Ipusukilo community school “and Ndola “Holy Family Special School”.
In brief, it will be in the Spirit of Ubuntu, which is essentially about African togetherness, and how all of our actions have an impact on others and on society, for every one step forward to make their contributions in support of the poor and the vulnerable, to avert the looming “hunger pandemic”, as the world battles to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.