STATEMENT BY FIGHT INEQUALITY ALLIANCE ZAMBIA ON THE DEADLY CORONAVIRUS

01 APRIL 2020

The Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA) Zambia is a loose movement uniting a wide range of grassroots/rural groups, civil society organisations (CSOs), activists, artists, women and youth groups among others to build up collective to fight inequality in Zambia. FIA-Zambia is built to counter the excessive concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a small elite and achieve a just, equal and sustainable Zambia. The alliance works by linking the intersecting struggles against inequalities of gender and economic status. This work is led and defined by affected people, never “on behalf of others,” and is rooted in the values of the alliance. The alliance recognises that the growing gap between the rich and the poor adversely undermines access to social services and the protection of fundamental human rights. Citizens in any country play a vital role in the fight against inequality, thus, we recognize that in order to reverse the growing levels of inequality seen in Zambia today, the most affected and most marginalized groups must be in the frontlines to challenge the status quo.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way societies operate in many ways, from economic, social and even political, the pandemic has shown the best and the worst in our society. The President, H.E. Edgar Lungu, in his address to the nation on COVID-19 announced measures that the government is taking in order to ensure that we are all protected. Health Minister, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya has been giving regular updates and the number of those testing positive to the virus is increasing with every briefing. We urge government to ensure that the public to get tested so that they are better equipped to protect themselves and their loved ones.

As FIA Zambia, we acknowledge the need for some of the drastic measures taken by the government to protect the citizens, we also recognize the fact that there are inequalities that exist in our society. These existing inequalities worsen the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable people and communities – the disabled, rural & urban poor, women, youth/unemployed and daily wage earners among others. These measures will have a lasting impact on their lives, and we therefore implore the government to immediately implement socially protective measures to ensure no families are left behind as we move to protect our country against the pandemic. In addition to the measures the government has currently put in place, FIA Zambia recommends the following measures:

• The government must adopt social protection measures such as social cash transfer and distribution of resources and care in order to safeguard the livelihoods of the most vulnerable as well as the various employees who have lost their source of income due to the COVID19 pandemic.
• Reduce most financial burdens on small businesses and individuals by reducing VAT and other taxes. This will reduce their burden as they face increased uncertainty.
• Use mobile clinics to provide adequate health access to the most isolated places and vulnerable groups.
• Reduce load shedding hours to enable people to work from home and practice social distancing. As we continue to encourage people to constantly wash their hands as a preventative measure for COVID 19, we also recognize the fact that, in most areas, when power goes so does water raising the risk of infection spread.
• The government must stop rationing water and suspend payment of water bills in order to facilitate hygiene. Water distribution points should also be set-up in communities with no water.

Several Micro and Small to Medium Scale (SME) businesses will bear the brunt of steps taken by authorities to try and stem the possible contraction and then spread of the deadly COVID-19 which has claims thousands of lives around the world. The government must therefore prioritize relief for micro and SME businesses as compared to bailouts for foreign and big businesses.

We take this opportunity to appeal to all to practice social distancing but continue the spirit of advocating social balance and urge the government to do everything possible to avoid an escalation of the situation to the point of loss of life to COVID-19.