How we have been dealing with COVID-19 at UP Zambia
By Megan Saunders
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zambia in March 2020, UP Zambia has engaged in several activities with the twin goals of educating both staff and clients about the new disease as well as preventing disease transmission. UP Zambia staff have understood from the beginning that by protecting themselves from COVID-19, they also protect vulnerable clients in prison settings.
Given the limited resources in local prisons, UP Zambia mobilized to procure consumables used in the prevention of COVID-19 such as cloth masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, and handwashing stations. These have been distributed repeatedly in prisons here in Lusaka. Staff also made efforts to sensitize juvenile inmates about important concepts in the prevention of disease transmission like social distancing, handwashing, and masking up. Simple, easy to read posters were placed in prisons to serve as reminders for continuing prevention efforts.
By employing disease prevention measures, the legal desks have continued to serve clients in prisons throughout the pandemic (although staffing was reduced to limit exposure to both the UP Zambia team and the inmates). The court teams remained vigilant in complying with disease prevention so that UP Zambia would be allowed to continue the important work of advocating for and representing our clients in the courtroom. Other activities in the field have been carefully evaluated for disease risk and while some activities have been curtailed or postponed due to the pandemic, most have been able to proceed with the use of social distancing and masks (provided to both staff, clients, and families when needed).
Over the past year, UP Zambia staff have kept themselves abreast of the COVID-19 situation in Zambia through monthly staff lunch meetings and bi-monthly updates informed by the World Health Organization, the Zambian National Public Health Institute, and the Ministry of Health. UP Zambia also created a team of COVID “focal points” – staff members who serve to motivate and monitor their colleagues to ensure attention continues to be paid to disease prevention.
Through these activities, UP Zambia has been able to continue its legal representation, social support and advocacy for juveniles in conflict with the law, undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
*Megan is a Nurse educator/consultant at UP Zambia.