THE Non-Governmental Gender Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) says 2020 will remain engrained among the many years in which populations of the world faced unprecedented threat on livelihoods as well as such loss of productive lives having succumbed to the effects of COVID-19.
Speaking during the end of year Reflection Breakfast Meeting at Protea Hotel today in Lusaka, NGOCC board chairperson Mary Mulenga said the organisation remains deeply concerned about the country’s indebtedness adding that any debt distress affects the social sector spending especially on the health, education and agriculture sectors.
“During the year under review, our members from across the country reported increased shortages of key drugs in the health facilities, such as insulin for diabetic patients, dialysis reagents for kidney patients, combination drugs for cancer patients as well as blood shortages in the Blood Banks. More and more people were given prescriptions to fetch drugs from alternative sources because the government facilities didn’t have stock at most times. With regard to education, it was noted that the quality of secondary education services remained challenged due to inadequate teaching professionals and infrastructure (such as boarding facilities) to cater for the growing number of learners,” she said.
Mulenga says the organization notes some of the steps being taken by the government to address the debt situation through debt restructuring and dismantling mechanisms and the passing of the Planning and Budgeting Act as well as recently launched Zambia Economic Recovery Programme 2020-2023, among other measures.
“It is our hope and prayer that such interventions as articulated in the said documents be implemented in a more decisive and transparent manner. Zambians are looking for practical measures that will address the current socio-economic challenges. It is also NGOCC aspiration that the impact on the poor, especially the majority women and children will be ameliorated in the process. The poor, especially women and children depend on Government’s service delivery in both the health and education sectors,” she explained.
She added that the free-fall of the Kwacha that has been witnessed throughout 2020 has had negative implications on the cost of living which is way beyond reach for most average Zambians which remains a concern to the women’s movement.
“It is at family level where the effects of high cost of living is mostly experienced with female headed households facing the high risk of increased poverty levels, including the ensuing effects of malnutrition, stunted growth in children, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and indeed death. We therefore appeal to the Government that it should immediately address the socio-economic situation in the country which is pushing up the cost of living,” Mulenga said.
Additionally, NGOCC has reiterated its condemnation of the continued political violence perpetrated by political parties especially the major opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party.
Mulenga says both political parties continue to point fingers at each other and playing the blame game at the expense of human life.
She reiterates that in many respects, it is undeniably true that political violence has been one of the causes of the low number of women participating in politics – a reality that keeps impacting on Zambia quest for 50:50 gender parity at all levels of development.
”During the year under review, the country continued to witness increased incidences of political violence during By-elections. The levels of this political violence are degenerating to levels where lives are now being lost. In 2020 the country recorded the death of a member of the opposition political party and many injuries from various political parties during the By-elections. It is very unfortunate and saddening that to this date there has been no convincing public statements from the political party leadership to condemn this evil that is being perpetuated by unruly political cadres. NGOCC wishes to reiterate that life remains sacred and it is a serious violation of human rights for anyone to end a person’s life. We are particularly saddened by the events of the 23rd of December 2020, where lives were needlessly lost,” she said.
She appealed to the Zambia Police Service to resolve to act professionally and decisively in dealing with political violence regardless of who is perpetrating the vice as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide much needed leadership to the Zambia Police.
“We also appeal to the Zambia Police to mop up the guns that are everywhere and sometimes seemingly in wrong hands, she said.
The chairperson addressed a number of issues such as Sexual And Gender Based Violence (SGBV), Governance And Women’s Leadership, Media Freedom and civil society shrinking space to mention but a few.
She has however explained that going by the challenges experienced with the voter registration process, a number of eligible Zambians, especially women, may have been disadvantaged given the long queues that were an everyday occurrence during the whole period of the voter registration exercise.
“The Electoral Commission of Zambia definitely missed an opportunity to ensure that they register as many people as possible to vote in the 2021 General Elections. Going forward it is our appeal to the ECZ to actualize the inherent right of every eligible citizen to participate in voting by ensuring that they implement the continuous voter registration process. Our hope is that the Commission will conclude the registration process in a more transparent manner and instill confidence in the public on the voting process,” she said.
Mulenga has appealed to all Zambians as well as political leaders in the ruling party and opposition to end to political violence and ensure that there is peace everywhere as well as put the country first and remain united especially that the 2021 general elections draw near.
By Evelyn Namwinga
©Kalemba December 31, 2020