COVID-19 and Zambia’s fragile health system

Professor Kazhila Chinsembu, professor of molecular biology and drug discovery at the University of Namibia, former lecturer at UNZA, and author of the book Green Medicines, says COVID-19 has exposed what we have long-feared: Zambia’s fragile public healthcare delivery system, archaic clinical laboratory infrastructure, and lack of indigenous and home-grown biomedical research preparedness.

“Current challenges to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 should open new prospects in the search for novel drugs from indigenous medicinal plants and other natural products.

Zambia needs a drug discovery renaissance inspired by the potentials of our huge endowment of medicinal plants,” says Prof Chinsembu. “As a nation, we need to invest in research on indigenous natural agents that inhibit entry of human coronavirus into cells. We also need to develop natural products that block general replication and specific chymotrypsin-like protease-mediated replication of SARS-CoV-2. As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates an already dire public health situation in Zambia, we should place special emphasis on public health reforms that embrace Afrocentric drug discovery and development.”

No one in Edgar Lungu’s administration today can mask the fragile state of our health system.

And this is a serious source of concern. For most of Lungu’s tenure, the issue of lack of drugs, misappropriation and or inflated costs in the construction of health facilities around the country have been on the lips of Zambians.

The much-publicised public health infrastructure, is today being stretched to the limit by COVID-19. The revelation that the Ministry of Health used up K500 million in three days and yet the country has run out of essential drugs, including Panadol and Insulin, is criminal. And reports that the same ministry has mismanaged K1.4 billion and US$1 million is a serious indictment on Edgar. We say so because here is a regime that has contracted a mountain of foreign debt with nothing to show for it. And how is Edgar going to deal with the coronavirus outbreak if the statistics or figures being released by Dr Chitalu Chilufya are factual? And the country has not yet reached the peak of the pandemic. We have always warned that the Ministry of Health procurement system is a conduit for corruption. And the failure for accountability in the ministry will soon result in unnecessary deaths. Edgar must seriously, and as a matter of urgency, inform the nation over the issue of essential drugs in hospitals and the actual state of the health delivery system. There certainly is the critical issue of medical services in the country. It should not be about Edgar’s political survival through his inclinations to Dr Chilufya, but it should be about saving people’s lives. The same people that put Edgar where he is today are the ones asking him to pay serious attention to the health system. There’s no need to risk the lives of citizens – the nation – any further than this PF regime has already done.

As we have stated before, Edgar’s government has pushed the country into very high debt levels with very little, if not nothing, to show for it. The only thing Edgar has succeeded in is increasing corruption, intolerance and abuse of public institutions. He has literally destroyed the integrity of every public institution – the Judiciary, Parliament, the police, the Drug Enforcement Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and so on and so forth. Not even the Church has been spared.

The economy is in a shambles. Poverty and despair have increased in the country.

And this is the record on which Edgar is seeking a third term!

Why should a person in this situation seek a third term when he can’t even manage his second term properly?

These PF leaders are not leaders but mercenaries, vampires.

They don’t care about what happens to the people, to the Zambian people.

This is why they are still trying to push in a new Constitution – Bill 10 – to guarantee themselves an easy takeover so that they can continue to loot and enrich themselves.

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