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Leaving no one behind: An NGO in Zambia incorporates the needs of prison inmates and street children in its COVID-19 response

03 Sep 2020

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DAPP Project Facilitator Comrade Siabulimo orients inmates about the importance of using masks at the Correctional Facility in Mansa, Luapula Province, Zambia. Credit: DAPP

 

By Truphosa Anjichi-Kodumbe, Public Information Officer, OCHA Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa, Nairobi

 

Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) is this year celebrating 30 years of humanitarian work in Zambia. As a social welfare and development organization, DAPP has reached more than 1.3 million people across the country thus far in 2020, through information and direct interventions related to health, poverty reduction, access to education, disaster management, and advocating for human rights, especially for people in prison.

 

“We use a holistic approach that focuses on building the capacity of people for them to take charge and improve their own lives using locally available resources,” explained Elise Soerensen, DAPP’s Managing Director.

 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DAPP has reached more than 500,000 people directly through sensitization about the coronavirus, including with guidance on prevention measures. Ms. Soerensen and her team have installed “Tippy Taps” – handwashing facilities made from small containers – in some villages and provided training to communities on how to stay safe. Amid the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, DAPP has also enabled several youth living with HIV to start self-help groups to support one another.

 

“All our programmes have been affected by the impact of COVID-19, but this has been a great entry point for us to get out the messages on prevention. We are combining the HIV/AIDS messages with COVID-19 prevention messages, including lessons on how to wash hands and wear masks,” Ms. Soerensen said.

 

 

In collaboration with the Government of Zambia and partners, DAPP has supported nearly 2,000 inmates in nine correctional facilities, including three for juveniles, by providing them with life skills and emphasizing the need to abide by COVID-19 regulations in prisons. DAPP has provided cleaning materials to the facilities and trained inmates to sew their own face masks. In other facilities, the team has donated fabric from their second-hand clothing business and community volunteers have sewed masks and distributed them to prisons.

 

Chief Inspector Charles Chonga Mkushi examines the face masks produced by inmates at the Correctional Facility in Central Province of Zambia. Credit: DAPP
 

“If the disease gets inside these facilities, it is very difficult to stop it, because people live very close to each other and most of the prisons are overcrowded,” Ms. Soerensen said.
“Our objective is to empower the inmates to know that they need protection and to be treated with dignity even if they are in prison. The simple act of wearing a mask has been found to be effective in flattening the COVID-19 pandemic curve in other countries,” added Mwansa Fredrick Katunga, DAPP Director of Programmes and HIV Project Leader.

 

A juvenile in the Insakwe Approved School sews a face mask. Credit: DAPP

 

The organization is also helping children living on the street, who, according to Mr. Katunga “are at very high risk of COVID-19 infection, as they sleep in the open”.

 

“The Government and all citizens should not relax in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms. Soerensen said. “We need to return to protecting lives as a priority, even as we consider ways of supporting the recovery of the economy and people’s livelihoods.”

 

Mr. Katunga added: “The key to controlling the spread of the coronavirus is an individual responsibility and should be taken seriously by all without leaving anyone behind.”