The government has expressed concern at the non-adherence to measures aimed at preventing the spread and contraction of covid-19 among members of the general public.
Chief Government Spokesperson, Dora Siliya says the situation is worrying and may result in a serious health catastrophe if left to continue.
Speaking when a group of children from the Media Network for Child Rights and Development (MNCRD) and Save the Children International paid a courtesy call on her in Lusaka today, Ms. Siliya said it is shocking that people have resorted to doing their usual activities with total disregard for preventive measures.
She said with the ever-increasing number of covid-19 cases, citizens need to take the disease seriously and do everything they can to protect themselves and their families against the disease.
“At the weekend I drove around Lusaka town and I was shocked to see how people are not adhering to the preventive guidelines given by health authorities such as wearing of masks, social distancing and washing hands,” Ms. Siliya said.
Ms. Siliya noted that the situation has been compounded by misinformation and fake news in which some people are claiming that covid-19 does not exist.
She called upon the media to help contain the situation by providing accurate information on the disease.
Ms. Siliya, who is also Information and Broadcasting Services Minister, said Government is worried that the situation would degenerate into a crisis if left unchecked.
Ms. Siliya appealed to families to take responsibility and ensure that the measures announced by health authorities are strictly adhered to.
“This disease is real and let’s not make a mistake by becoming complacent and listen to those who are saying it does not exist because it actually does exist. Our failure to take the disease seriously is a time bomb,” she said.
And 18 year Child Rights Activist Musowe Like said most children risk being victims of the disease because of the wrong information they are being given.
Musowe said many children are meant to believe that Corona Virus is a hoax by their parents, guardians and in some cases teachers in schools who are insisting that it does not exist.
He said the situation was even worse in rural areas where people do not have enough information about the disease.
“At one school, I was shocked to hear a teacher trying to convince pupils in his class that the disease does not exist. Now, this is serious because children easily believe information from their teachers, caregivers and parents,” he said.
He appealed to Government to heighten its coronavirus sensitization campaign to ensure that citizens, including children, are given accurate information about the disease.
Zambia has so far recorded a cumulative total of 1,895 cases, 42 deaths, 1,412 recoveries and 441 active cases.
Meanwhile Ms. Siliya has said Children’s Rights are Human Rights and must be protected.
Ms. Siliya said there is urgent need for members of the public and families to take responsibility of how children are taken care of in the society.
The Minister said after the outbreak of the coronavirus, Government made serous decisions to prevent the spread of the disease, among them, the closing of schools to protect children against contracting the disease.
She added that Government did not only end at closing schools but went ahead to introduce e-learning platforms as well the Education Broadcasting Services on various television and radio channels to ensure children continued with their education.
She said through line Ministries such as Health and Youth, Sport and Child Development, Government has continued to take care of the health, educational and other needs of children to ensure that they fully enjoy their rights without any inhibition.
“Issues affecting children are being addressed through various ministries such as Youth and Sports through the implementation of the child policy and Ministry of Health by ensuring every child has access to medical facilities within a short radius among many other works by different Ministries,” Ms. Siliya said.
Ms. Siliya said Government is alive to the fact that some of the initiatives it has taken to ensure continued provision of education to children is not reaching and benefitting all children due to various limiting factors.
She, however, said the education of a child should not be about the government alone but a partnership involving the family, the church, the community and the media.
Ms. Siliya challenged the media to play a pivotal role in the promotion and safeguarding of children’s rights.
She said the media must create and publish more content relating to issues affecting children and tailor them in such a way that they meet the needs of all children across the nation.
And Media Network on Child Rights and Development Executive Director Henry Kabwe urged the media to get the views of the children on issues affecting them especially during this time of Corona Virus because the issues that affected children long ago might not be the same issues affecting them now.
Mr. Kabwe called on the Government to expand Educational Broadcasting Radio and Television Services so that as many children as possible can benefit from its services.
Speaking during the same meeting, Save the Children International Country Director Jo Musonda expressed concern with the limited media space for children.
Ms. Musonda said issues concerning children are not often given due attention and when raised are given in adequate follow-ups on stories covered.
“We also note with regret the unethical reporting and sue of children’s images on social and mainstream media without due consideration for the right of the child to protection,” she said.
And Mundia Lubinda a 15 year old girl from Media Network on Child Rights and Development commended Government on the introduction of the education channel and e-learning platforms which she said were helping many children across the country.
Lubinda, however, expressed sadness with the fact that children in rural areas and some peri-urban areas are not able to easily access these platforms due to many different challenges such as access to laptops, internet, smartphones and electricity.
“Even children in urban areas are having challenges because of load-shedding and I feel that they are missing out on a lot of lessons while others are learning,” she said.
She added that the e-learning platform do not provide a safe environment for children as they encounter cyberbullying and side links that may not be relevant to children’s academic progress.
She urged Government to provide a system which will enable children keep track of their progress.