By Scoop Reporter

THE Catholic Church has called for concerted effort in fighting stigma and discrimination against people who recover from the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) from the communities they come from as the scourge is rife.

Zam Jesuit COVID-19 response coordinator Father Kelly Michelo believes the only way to diffuse the negativity towards people who recover from the disease is through vigorous awareness campaigns that a patient who recovers cannot infect them.

Father Michelo said this on Wednesday in Ibex when former Finance Minister Felix Mutati donated K18, 000 towards the Zam Jesuit COVID-19 response feeding programme for the frontline staff and patients and participated in preparing food which was distributed to Levy, Courtyard, and UTH quarantine centres.

Mr. Mutati handing over a cheque to Father Michelo

He says there is still a lot of misconception that those who have been discharged and reintegrated into society could transmit the disease to people in their communities hence the need to invest in awareness programmes to correct the situation.

“We have emergency education programme where we are talking about awareness because there is a lot of ignorance surrounding this pandemic. We find that some patients who are being discharged are still being stigmatized against. The community is afraid of them because they think they can also catch the disease and so, we need awareness and accompaniment to those who are recovering.

“We are doing that on messages through the media so that people can understand. We need to guide people that when someone was infected and are discharged, it doesn’t mean that another person can get the infection as well because they had the illness which was treated,” Fr. Michelo said.

He says the church is also involved in social analysis and advocacy to make people realise that there is still life post-COVID-19 era by dealing with the economic aspect of the challenges facing the people where most of them have lost jobs.

He says the church is supplementing Government’s efforts in coming up with strategies on how economic challenges could be addressed post-COVID-19.

He says this is not time for finger-pointing but for working together to, not only help those at the frontline and patients, but also supporting efforts to stop the spread of the disease as it is the responsibility of every citizen.

He says the notion that only bigger corporate institutions have the capacity to contribute to this fight must not be entertained because most of them have been seriously hit and are in recession.

“We want people to understand that there is life after this pandemic. We are living in an economy that is declining where families are in problems as members are losing jobs. We are trying to make people understand what things as stakeholders can do to help Government rethink about what strategies must be employed because life must continue post COVID-19 era.

“It is time as Zambians that we came on board and found solutions not only to alleviate the sufferings those people who have been infected go through, but also to find ways of stopping the spread of this pandemic.

“It is not about bigger companies because we know even companies are in recession now. It is about individuals who are able to come on board and say, this is what we want to do to support. Our response is multifaceted and holistic and we hope that many people will come on board to try and support what we do,” he said.

And Mr. Mutati has assured frontline health workers and patients of his continued support until the disease is defeated.

Mr. Mutati and his press aid, Edmond Miti, serving the food

He says he will support them to the very end because of the vital role they are playing in the fight against COVID-19.

He says he feels duty-bound to contribute to the initiative because he appreciates the devastating effects of the pandemic and that on top of the money he contributed to the church and his physical presence to prepare food for the health workers and patients, he will continue supporting efforts to mitigate the negative impact the disease has created in Zambia.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis globally but also in Zambia. It has devastating effects on livelihoods and also on the economy like Zambia which is not strong enough. We just want to send a clear message to the frontline staff and the patients that on this journey, they are not alone.

“We are going to hold hands with them and give them support and it will be in three ways. The physical part like we have come here to cook food which is important while the second one is to make contributions to these efforts and the third level is to continue to offer our prayers,” Mr. Mutati said.

He has called on the country to unite in prayer for the frontline workers and patients saying the pandemic would only be won through the intervention of God.

Mr. Mutati packing the food before delivery to centres

“For me, it is important that I hold hands with the Jesuits and with the St. Ignitious community that in a small way, both at the physical level where we came to cook, and at the contribution level which we have done today.

“Today, we are cooking for about 250 both frontline and patients in three key centres and today’s cost of the food is approximately K18, 000 and I have delivered that to ensure that the food is prepared and delivered to them and we will continue with additional contributions,” he said.

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