Lusaka — On 10 November 2021, H.E. Anne Wagner-Mitchell, the German Ambassador to Zambia and Dr Nathan Bakyaita, WHO Representative to Zambia came together with Hon Sylvia Masebo, Minister of Health at the Ministry of Health for a handover ceremony of 924 000 surgical face masks.
Over the past months, the Ministry of Health of the Federal Republic of Germany has made in-kind donations of surgical and medical masks to the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 120 million face masks have been distributed to 100 countries all over the world. As part of this donation, the WHO country office in Zambia received 924 000 surgical and medical face masks for its work in Zambia to support the Ministry of Health's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The kind support from the Government of Germany comes at a time when Zambia is anticipating the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. Since the outbreak began in March 2020, Zambia has reported 209 939 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3664 deaths (2742 COVID-19 deaths and 922 COVID-19 associated) as of 10 November 2021. Vaccination has taken up since the re-launch by HE HH but coverage remains low with only 7% of the target population (all adults aged 18 years and above) fully vaccinated.
"Face masks are a key measure to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 and hence do contribute to saving lives" said Dr Bakyaita in a statement made at the handover event, adding "masks are a crucial part of the fight against the pandemic, together with other rules such as physical distancing, avoiding crowded, closed and close-contact settings, good ventilation, regularly washing hands and covering sneezes and coughs." The WHO Representative expressed his sincere gratitude to the Government of Germany and the German Embassy for partnering with WHO and the Government of the Republic of Zambia to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Germany is currently the number one top contributor to WHO's global COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and Germany's support to WHO Zambia - in addition to the masks the country office has received USD 1.26m from the Government of Germany that helped purchase other needed equipment such as oxygen concentrators and cylinders - has enabled the Organization to provide crucial support to the response to COVID-19 in Zambia when it was needed the most.
"This global crisis requires global cooperation. This is why - as longstanding partner and friend of Zambia - the German Government remains committed to support the Zambian people to control the outbreak of the pandemic and to mitigate the economic and social consequences of the crisis", said German Ambassador Anne Wagner-Mitchell during the handover. "The most efficient way to protect lives and the health sector in this pandemic is to vaccinate against COVID-19. To this end, Germany supported the Coordinating Mechanism "Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator" with EUR 2.2 billion as the second largest donor. This global collaboration aims at accelerating development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, Germany will share 175 million vaccine doses, mainly via COVAX, of which more than 18 million doses have already been delivered."
Using the occasion of the meeting that was also live streamed on MoH social media, Hon Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo said "Today, I am urging all Zambians 18 years and above to get vaccinated when they can. This is our only way out of the pandemic."
During the ceremony, the 924 000 surgical face masks were officially handed over to the Ministry of Health as part of COVID-19 response activities, to be used by the general population, as well as frontline workers involved in managing public services amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the country.