Remarks for the Handover of equipment and material for the launch of the pilot phase of the COVID-19 Compliant Safe Markets

Remarks by Roland SERI, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative
at Lusaka City Council (LCC), Lusaka
Wednesday 17th February 2021

  • Lusaka City Deputy Mayor, Mr. Christopher Shakafuswa
  • Lusaka City Council Director Public Health, LCC Mr Edgar Mulwanda
  • Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Dr. Silumesi
  • Director of Housing and Social Services, Mr. Danny Chibinda
  • UN Colleagues
  • Her Excellency – The Ambassador of Sweden: Ms Anna-Maj Hultgàrd – also representing the Ambassador of Ireland to Zambia
  • Market Masters
  • Members of the Press
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

On this special occasion of the handover of materials required to launch the Safe Markets Model, it gives me great pleasure to stand before you to herald the start of what promises to be a proactive step towards the establishment of marketplaces that are compliant to COVID-19 public health regulations.

From the time the first COVID -19 virus case was reported in Zambia on 18 March 2020, confirmed cumulative cases now stand at slightly over 70,000 – most of which sprung up during the current upsurge of cases as a result of the second wave that saw a rise in cases from around 1,500 cumulative in June 2020. Unfortunately, we are still going through an upsurge in cases with each new day.

It is in times like this, more than ever, we should collectively raise concerns and demands for more proactive actions to reverse the trend.

Guest of Honour and distinguished guests

On behalf of the UNDP, allow me to express the entire United Nations solidarity with the Government of Zambia and salute the efforts taken to respond to COVID-19. The recent Ministerial statement of 6 February 2021 gives the assurance of the Government’s commitment to rid the country of the Coronavirus. Indeed, as the UN, we are proud to be part of the MaskUpZambia campaign meant to encourage the correct and consistent wearing of masks to help fight COVID-19. Without the active participation of all Zambians by adhering to the Five Golden rules, the spread of the virus will continue, at great costs to the nation. We cannot allow precious lives to be lost when we have the power to do something to stop the scourge. Collective efforts and individual commitments are key if we are to follow the laid down rules to:

  1. Mask up,
  2. Maintain physical distance,
  3. Frequently hand wash with soap or use a hand sanitizer,
  4. Seek medical attention early and
  5. Avoid crowded places or stay home.

The Five Golden Rules are within the control of each one of us. However, given the reality for most citizens, especially for those in the informal sector whose very livelihoods require them to be in crowded marketplaces, the last rule poses a great challenge.

As highlighted from our recent study on the impact of COVID-19 on the informal economy in Zambia, it is no secret that the virus has disrupted economic and business activities, particularly for women led Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

It is for this reason that the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a Public Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and later as a pandemic on 11 March 2020. For this same reason, Guest of Honour, the entire UN family have been quick to respond to the UN Secretary General’s call to action in a concerted effort to contain the pandemic.

For small-scale businesses, most of whom are led by women, the call to stay home results in customers retreating into their homes thereby reducing demand on goods and services that they provide. The reduced interaction with their customers has seen some businesses either completely shutting down or substantially scaling down their operations.

Such a scenario has direct impact on household incomes and its resulting negative consequences on the country’s attainment of the SDGs.

In a bid to mitigate long term impact on the small informal business sector and provide for business continuity during the COVID-19 outbreak, UNDP through its Accelerator Lab has partnered with the Lusaka City Council (LCC), the Ministry of Health (MoH) and worked closely with market committees from the three residential areas of Nyumba Yanga, Chilenje and Lilanda designed and developed a model market that promises to help businesses in the community markets to continue operating while minimising the risk of contracting the virus.

How may this be possible, you may wonder? Specifically, when we consider how densely populated our marketplaces are, hosting all kinds of businesses including serving as bus stations to different localities in the city.

Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to briefly highlight the expectations for a safe market. By collectively rethinking and adapting existing market models to COVID-19 Compliant Models, this will have a positive impact on community behaviour to prevent the spread of the virus. Working with the key departments of public health from LCC and MoH; and through established community structures namely Community Based Volunteers and Market Safety Officers, targeted interventions will ensure community ownership and buy-in to the Five Golden Rules. Interventions are planned for in these markets to build capacity and activate communities to create model markets that are compliant to COVID-19 health regulations. As I speak to you now, as an entry point, 75 community-based volunteers and market safety officers have been trained using existing Ministry of Health community training modules with the aim of increasing awareness on the importance of complying to health guidelines. Markets have not only served as sources of affordable food to most households in the country but help to provide a means of income generation for the many women and youth that have set up livelihood ventures in these places. It is the protection of this means of income that makes this intervention robust as it is aimed at ensuring business continuity in potentially high COVID-19 risk places.

Cognisant of the need to equip these markets with the required facilities to support compliance among traders and customers, it is an honour for the UNDP to present different items that we hope will contribute to increasing compliance in these markets: protective gear namely face shields, antibacterial soaps, fumigation equipment, 100-litre buckets and IEC materials, which by the way are not just in English but have also been translated in two of the Zambian local languages – Bemba and Nyanja to ensure wider and continuous sensitisations in the markets. It is our hope that these items will become ever available amenities in all marketplaces countrywide as we move towards the establishment of community markets that guarantee safety to the public.

Undeniably, Safe Markets make for Safe Communities

Lessons drawn from the pilot in the three markets of Nyumba Yanga, Chilenje and Lilanda will be a valuable roadmap that will change the narrative of markets from COVID-19 epicentres to safe places where our informal businesses can thrive despite the threat of the virus. Going forward, UNDP under the GBVII Programme stands ready to roll out this model in three other markets in consultation with partners

On behalf of UNDP, and indeed, the UN System in Zambia, I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Health and the Lusaka City Council for your relentless efforts in ensuring that this country is rid of the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and that small businesses are supported to continue to operate in a safer environment. Already, in addition to the Safe Markets project, the UNDP has invested USD 1.2m targeted at increasing resilience of women and youth in small scale business, a testimony of the UN’s commitment to walk the talk.

Allow me Guest of Honour to point out that we would not have accomplished such interventions without the able support from our partners. UNDP would like to extend its appreciation to the Governments of Sweden and Ireland for their financial support towards this important work, which will achieve our expectation to go beyond this initial phase and extend to other markets in our continued efforts to rid marketplaces of COVID-19.

In conclusion, Guest of Honour, UNDP delivering as part of the entire UN system in Zambia, remains committed to render every possible support to the country to win the fight against COVID-19. Let me end by encouraging everyone who has not done so yet, to join the MaskUpZambia campaign, an initiative recently launched by the Honourable Minister of Health to encourage the wearing of masks in public as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For those on Facebook or Twitter, take a photo of yourself correctly wearing a mask, tag someone, encourage them to do the same and post online with the hashtag #MaskUpZambia.

Only Together can we win the fight against COVID-19!

Thank you for your attention.

UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Development Programme
Other entities involved in this initiative
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency