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Alba Iulia
Monday, September 13, 2021

I Survived the Corona Virus in Zambia, I have lived with the Survivor’s Guilt

Columns I Survived the Corona Virus in Zambia, I have lived with the...

By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Emeritus Professor of Sociology

I was having the best time of my life for five months at the Mwizenge Sustainable Model Village in Chongwe in rural Lusaka the Capital City of Zambia in Southern Africa. I was living a full life with about 15 men and women every day in the African wilderness finally doing the research work I have loved and craved for all my forty years of working life since I was a Research Fellow at the then Institute of African Studies of the University of Zambia in 1977.

I woke up early that morning in Chongwe in June as usual and had my breakfast of large slices of juicy red tomatoes on brown bread with hot black tea. At 7.25am I suddenly felt so awful, ill and weak in my entire body that I intuitively knew I had to call a taxi to urgently take me to the Clinic in Chongwe 16 miles or 27 Kms away. I felt so weak I could not carry my 30lb or 13.60Kg backpack. Instead, I asked one of the young men village residents, to carry my backpack to the taxi. He looked so puzzled at me that even he realized something was seriously wrong – village residents knew I refused help and always carried my own heavy large backpack and often walked the 5 Kms to the main road.

The young doctor at the Chongwe private clinic said I had a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics. I went back home and spent a night in utter misery of sickness of fever so high that sweat-drenched my bedsheets. My brother decided we should travel 41miles or 67 kms to Lusaka to South Point Hospital where the doctors had access to cutting edge medical lab technology. The battery of tests revealed I had such serious case of malaria that I had to be hospitalized and admitted immediately. The experienced nurses in the small ten-bed hospital ward immediately frantically started to administer the drips for the 3 bags of fluids since I was dangerously dehydrated. The expensive cocktail of doses of intravenous malaria drug courses were quickly administered. Two days later I was discharged feeling great. I went back to my hut in the model village in Chongwe.

A few days later I went back to the South Point Hospital for a medical review where the medical staff warmly welcomed me. I had no idea something was going to happen that would drastically change my life forever. The doctor said my lab tests showed the malaria parasite was still there. They would treat it with yet another round of the cocktail of intravenous drugs. This time I would be an outpatient. The doctor casually suggested I get the rapid Corona Virus test. When the test results came back, I will never forget that moment, the doctor very casually told me:

“Your Corona Virus test came out positive,” he looked at me. “How are you feeling? Any shortness of breath?”

“I feel fine,” shrugging my shoulders. “I have been wearing a mask all the time. I have a small cough; nothing serious.”

“You must be one of those asymptomatic Corona Virus people.”

The doctor gave me Corona Virus prescription drugs that I was to take for 10 days. I was staying at a lodge. I took my first dose. That night my whole body broke up into hives and rushes. I could not sleep. I badly wanted to scratch all over my body. My fever was drenching my bed covers with sweat every night. My aunt and uncle who used to live in the City of Lusaka passed away several years ago. My nearest relatives were 372 miles or 600kms away in the remote Eastern Province in Lundazi district. My wife and children were 10,000 miles or 16,000 Kms away in Bridgewater in the United States. I would fight this battle alone in a lodge.

When Derrick Chauvin the white police officer had his knee on Gorge Floyd’s neck for nine minutes in the United States, George knew he was going to die. He cried for his mother. During the worst times of my Corona Virus illness, I cried for my late mother who passed in 2018. When I was young, my mother once said: “There are times my son in your life when you will be alone and suffering very far away from home. You will have to be strong. and pray to God. Other kind people will help you.”

My mouth felt so bad that the sight and thought of eating food felt disgusting. I lost my sense of taste and smell of food. My 35-year-old taxi driver Mulenga who said he had also been sick and recovering from the Corona Virus became my inspiration. “Ba Shikuru (old man) you will be alright” he kept encouraging and reassuring me every day as the battle continued.

The hospital could not issue me the international Corona Virus travel certificate yet as my Corona Virus test was still positive so I could not fly back home to the United States even after 10 days of taking medications. I was depressed. Would I ever fly back home any time soon?

Slowly I began to eat. I first ate nshima with lumanda delele. One day, the hospital issued my international Corona Virus travel certificate as the test was finally negative. After 17 hours of grueling flying, the massive plane landed at Dulles Airport in the United States. When I emerged at the international arrival lounge, my tall mask less son was waiting:

“Welcome home Dad!” He had had both vaccinations. I was so happy.

I have lived with the survivor’s guilt. I was one of the lucky ones. I did not need a Corona Virus hospital bed and a ventilator. People are dying of the virus in Lusaka and among 17 million Zambians. But I was able to fly away. There is lots of suffering and death from the dangerous Corona Virus among my 17 million fellow Zambians.


  1. So touching. Good u survived, thanks to doctors who promptly attended 2u. Obviously u had to pay and that helped. Many aren’t so lucky.

  2. In Zambia we die anyhow, life doesn’t matter that much. Even a simple political difference can result in death. So don’t be guilty, the virus hasn’t hit us that bad. We’ve learned the art of looking after ourselves, we don’t depend on anyone. Most of those that get admitted don’t survive, so we treat ourselves at home. Steaming and a cocktail of herbs and drugs do the magic whether approved by ZAMRA or not. You’ve been gone for too long my brother

  3. YOU brought the virus here and you have left us to grapple with the disease among our relatives, friends and the community who have no refuge like you. Our mortuaries are full, and the health authorities are advising us to bury our beloved ones within 24hrs. Our culture demands procedures and norms which that time limit cannot accommodate, hence creating a disfunctional situation. You and your kind should have stayed where you were, the so called place you call home, so that you don,t bring us this untold pain. Dont ever come back, stay where you are ALL of you, we will deal with ourselves, like we have known how all this time. God Bless Zambia and God Bless its People.

  4. Kapwepwe you are too harsh with your response. Zambia has allowed it’s children to go and leave in diaspora because it could not provide for them. They are no lesser Zambian than you. To tell them to never come back, is too cruel and insensitive in my mind. I rest my case

  5. I notice that Prof Mwizenge Tembo is now semi-retired or retired but retains continuing association with his liberal arts college Bridgewater, hence the emeritus professorship they hv now conferred on him. This is great. It’s also great that nostalgia for home makes him retain ties with Zambia which is now his old country. People who hv never lived abroad don’t understand hw useful it is to retain ties with your diaspora. They can be forgiven whn they make uninformed comments.

  6. Thanks to the great doctors and nurses trained by our govt to ensure life is preserved. Take care of yourself and ensure you thank the women and men in uniform by voting pf in few weeks time

  7. And this is why injections and health workers have lost their lives in Zambia especially in rural areas …this man had covid-19 and he was being treated for malaria even doctors in Chongwe further exposing everyone from taxi drivers and kids who were carrying his bags. you can track and trace his whereabouts and you will see that he was a super-spreader. When I had those symptoms though not as severe I self isolated minimising exposing it to family and others.

  8. As usual the UK based troll/ impostor never even bothered to read the whole article swift to post it’s claptrap…if it did it would be ashamed that a lot of health workers lost their lives due to not being equipped and updated on our to diagnose potential covid-19 patients.

  9. He forgot to tell us about what happened to the poor people who came in contact with him.
    Asymptomatic corona virus carriers are very dangerous and the main spreaders of the deadly virus.
    Typical of Zambians who only think about themselves and care less of others

  10. @Kapwepwe no one stopped you from relocating…it’s beautiful out here don’t feel jealous of Zambians in the diaspora…majority of them are investing back home and you will also benefit

  11. I blame the western trained and zombie doctors who run the Ministry of Health and the western hypnotised pharmacists at the Medicines Regulatory Authority. Many African countries, even our neighbour Zimbabwe have licensed the use of Ivermectin. The Covid pandemic is raging in countries like Zambia because of the lack of the use of this simple and cheap medicine which only costs around K300 for a course. Some Zambians have surreptitiously taken it. In South Africa, every doctor knows that it stopped a catastrophe. The Zambian doctors are secretly using this drug on their close friends and relatives but giving useless Azithro, Zinc and oxygen to the rest.

  12. Maklaria, the biggest scapegoat for disease in Zambia. Even when people were dying of HIV-AIDS, they were still being treated for malaria. I feel ashamed that medical personnel, whoever they are, have no proper diagnostic skills and facilities except to blame malaria for everything, even Lime disease, Onyongnyong or chikungunya virus, and recently- Sars Cov 2. In a proper hospital setting, the doctor who said that the Covid test was positive would have discharged a team to trace and test contacts, but being a private hospital, he is just happy to pocket the money after administering a cocktail of useless drugs.

  13. African Doctor @13, the problem probably lies with u. There are laws that govern hw pharmaceutical products may be licensed for use in Zambia. There are no zombies here. The quickest way if u’re a poor coubtry is to obtain WHO certification. This is done by providing relevant information to WHO which is then doublechecked by experts. Rich countries hv their own regulatory agencies and do not need the WHO which is seen as really there to help poor countries to maintain reasonable standards.

  14. THE AFRICAN DOCTOR – Those free vaccines come with conditions…all we see is dull Politicians and senior civil servants receiving at colourful ceremonies but behind the scenes these morons have signed pacts and exclusivity licenses with the devil. Just look at what happened to the native maize seed after African govts signed deals with Masanto corporation.

  15. Disinformation and Misinformation about the Corona Virus and vaccinations are very common even here in the United States which is a developed country. I have included a few points of clarification which will correct some of the falsehoods I have seen in the comments section.
    1. I never brought Covered 19 from American to Zambia. I had to have a negative Corona Virus test before I could fly to Zambia.
    2. I always wore my mask everywhere because of my age. When I was on minibuses, I was often among the 4 or 5 people who were properly wearing masks when I was on minibuses. What I had was probably the Delta variant of the Corona Virus which is very and more contagious than the original Corona Virus.
    3. Hostility toward Zambians who are abroad is completely out of place because there are…

  16. What i find surprising and selfish is you never got the vaccine in the US before you came to Zambia, you past on the virus to several people while you were here , you should think of others instead of your self.

  17. Thank God you’re well. However, dude watch your lies for a good story. You claimed you were in Chongwe with your brother yet also claim your closest relative is 300 miles plus in eastern province. Come on man!

  18. It baffles me as to why Zambians back home hate Zambians in the diaspora…like we stopped them to relocate…..most of us are in the diaspora because of good quality of life….so don’t hate for no reason

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