SEATTLE, Washington — Information is one of the most important resources in the world today. However, many impoverished communities lack access to essential information about keeping safe and healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During this global crisis, the capability to stay informed about the novel coronavirus can be a lifesaver. Channels, such as the internet, have made it easier for many people to gain knowledge. However, many people around the globe do not have internet access and, therefore, cannot easily be informed about the COVID-19 pandemic and preventative measures. In light of these issues, nuns in Zambia set out to make a difference and save lives by providing vital information about the novel coronavirus to the public.
COVID-19 in Zambia
Zambia is a country located in Southern Africa, with a population of approximately 18 million people. As of July 2020, more than 1,800 people in the country have become infected with the novel coronavirus, with 42 recorded deaths. The rate of COVID-19 cases has yet to slow down in Zambia, and more people are contracting the virus daily.
Furthermore, in June 2020, authorities arrested Zambia’s health minister, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, for corruption and money laundering. It is also suspected that he lied about testing positive for COVID-19 to avoid arrest. As health ministers are typically responsible for promoting and protecting the interest of public health, this action set Zambia back in trusting public health announcements.
How Nuns in Zambia are Making a Difference
For those living in poverty, accessing public health information can be extremely challenging. Even for those with access to the internet, it can be difficult to know what information is valid and trustworthy. In Zambia, where there are more than 70 languages, many people do not speak English. In light of this, Sister Astridah Banda set out to make a difference and reach people with essential information about COVID-19.
Sister Astridah Banda is a Catholic nun and social worker from Zambia. In March 2020, Banda started a radio show called the COVID-19 Awareness Program, which focuses on diffusing misinformation about the pandemic. By using the radio to spread her message, Banda can reach more people who otherwise may not have access to other media platforms such as the television or the internet.
As said previously, one of the main issues with spreading COVID-19 information in Zambia is the fact that, although the country’s official language is English, many of its citizens only speak one of the 70 other languages spoken in Zambia. This is largely what inspired Banda to start the radio show. She knew many were unaware of basic pandemic guidelines, such as wearing a mask and sanitizing, because most recent information was reported in English.
Thus, Banda’s COVID-19 Awareness Program was born. In the radio show, Banda speaks about critical COVID-19 information and updates in multiple languages. In addition to telling listeners to wash their hands, wear masks and stay home, the show also answers questions that listeners send in. Banda was able to create this multilingual show with the help of panelists, usually other nuns from the Association of Sisters in Zambia, each of which speaks a designated local language.
Fighting the Pandemic with Knowledge
Knowledge is power, and access to critical information can often be the difference between life and death. Through the resourceful radio show, Banda and her fellow nuns ensure Zambians have the necessary means to fight the virus. For impoverished communities without advanced technologies, the radio show offers them access to essential information about the COVID-19 pandemic and how to protect themselves from the disease. The nuns in Zambia are making a difference in Zambia’s fight against COVID-19 by spreading critical information and hope, two of which are crucial to surviving the pandemic.