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Home > COVID-19 > Zambia's SALT response

Zambia's SALT response to COVID-19

The local-global response to COVID-19 in Zambia illustrates the SALT approach's power.

There, true to form, SALT is bringing benefits across distance, peoples and time. Relatively tiny amounts of funding, and SALT activity that builds on the legacy from decades ago, is bringing fruit.

70,000 people are being touched personally – rather than receiving a message of fear from far away. Communities are seeing the risks and changing their own behaviours.

The changes have come from a three-month SALT initiative that was launched in late August.

        For a video of the launch, see above.

Back in March 2020 Ian Campbell and Zambia's Elvis Simamvwa discussed how Zambia could respond to COVID-19. The response would be Zambia-wide and would embrace SALT practice and the development of facilitation teams.

At first they focused on the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ), which each of them had previously chaired. Via CHAZ over 60% of the Zambian population is reachable. However, at the time CHAZ was preoccupied with the challenges of supplying and distributing personal protective equipment, as were other national faith and development entities.

So Elvis called their old friend Ellie Kalichi – she is now the Chieftainess of the Mapangaya area and represents about 60 villages and about 60,000 people. Some weeks later Ellie asked for Ian to call her.

Ellie told of her concern for her people because of government-ordered lockdown. Two weeks earlier, despite movement being prohibited, she had arranged for her and her entourage to visit three villages. As the Chieftainess she had the authority. No other district leader from police, government or faith group could do it for fear of punishment by law.

She had found fear confusion and conflict about COVID-19. Infection numbers in the country were low [and in early June remain low], but the trajectory was unknown. The people had little water for drinking let alone for handwashing to contain COVID-19.

Ellie and Ian agreed that the people should proactively refer people with Covid symptoms to local health centres for further assessment, and should engage in testing and contact tracing when it becomes available. And, the people should partner with the local Chikankata Hospital (which is designated as a key Provincial COVID Center) and the District Health Office.

Ellie's confidence is built on her previous experience of community responses to leprosy, TB and HIV – and her actions go far beyond raising awareness.

Local coordination was ready, and Ian sought from the USA a modest grant for community counselling and leadership engagement. Those funds were supplemented by a small amount from Australia – enough to pay for some petrol.

The grant covers systematic community counselling for three months with 60 villages by a mobile team drawn from the Chiefdom. The team includes people from local church, health facilities (both mission and government), local government, and the district health office.

The three main indicators/outcomes should be:

The impact will include renewed confidence and plans of the local communities for action in the future, and the part they can play in the district/ national response to the next epidemic whatever it may be.

The above aims are already being achieved. By September three sub-teams had covered 300 villages by intense travelling and community conversation. A core indicator of the change being achieved is that 80% of pepole now believe that COVID is real – whereas at the start of September only about 5% believed it. The villages are owning their own response and are actively planning.

The initiative was initially local, and by mid-October was also starting, as envisaged, to show the way to others both in Zambia and beyond. The core team is gathering the village COVID teams – calling them Covid Prevention Teams – and motivating them to reach out laterally to nearby communities. This is happening after a 'mini' learning synthesis. So they are heading in the right direction.

The local team budget is modest and is sufficient for their work for the first three months (June to August). The reflection on the significance of faith and community relationship in shaping the overall response is really important. Ian had hoped that it could happen and gives thanks that SALT practice is yet again delivering what it promises.

The need after August

More funding will be needed by September to cover facilitation of learning synthesis, which is a vital part of SALT practice.

The process will involve the local team in listening to participants, gathering stories, and accumulating some figures. This will help reveal the core learnings and significant themes, such as:

A process is likely to continue in bits, from October to early February. It would be SALT-grounded with timelines and capture of significant change. It would involve thematic analysis with Covid teams from the villages, partners, and the lead for the Covid response, who is the Chieftainess. A day or so of facilitation in February may be a significant element. Ian plans to be there by February to accompany the synthesis to an extent and celebrate achievement.

A small amount of extra funds would go a long way. Funds would contribute to the travel and living expenses of a couple of local associates of Affirm (such as Elvis) joining with the coordinator and the implementing team to reflect together and document the learning. If you can help, even a bit, then please let us know.

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