An interview with Church of Scotland Mission Partner Ida Waddell: living and working in Zambia during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ida is currently based in Mwandi, Zambia. In 2015 she was appointed Synod Health Secretary for the United Church of Zambia and has oversight of two Mission Hospitals and seven Rural Health Clinics in remote and difficult to reach areas. There are also nine Urban Health Posts sited in Church grounds in the high density areas of Lusaka and the Copperbelt.
Ida was recently interviewed by Revd David Perry, editor of the Connexion magazine, and this article is based on that interview. The original article appeared in Connexion Issue 19/Summer 2020.
David: Can you give us an idea of the impact of coronavirus in Zambia?
Ida: The numbers of Covid-19 cases have been relatively low – they stand at 74 with two deaths at the moment [June 2020] – but we rapidly rose from 2 cases in March to 52 by mid-April. One quarter of the active cases are among frontline health workers. Since the health service in Zambia is very fragile (in addition to challenges such as food insecurity, malnourishment and people living in overcrowded conditions) the effects of a serious outbreak would be devastating. A lot of effort is being made in to tracing, testing and isolating the people affected to stop the virus from spreading.
Above left: a crowded roadside market; above right: crowds gathered at the recent commissioning by the President of a new bridge in Lusaka
Although Zambia has a ‘soft’ lockdown in place, markets are still open, with rudimentary hand sanitising facilities at stalls and shops. Most people here live a hand-to-mouth existence, and so need to bring in money every day in order to feed their family.
How has the church in Zambia adapted to these uncertain times?
The United Church of Zambia (UCZ) were the first Zambian church to cancel Sunday worship to safeguard the lives of church members. Church services are now broadcast on radio, television and social media. The UCZ has responded quickly to coronavirus by setting up an Emergency Response Fund and delivering food such as mealie meal, cooking oil and beans to over 10 000 vulnerable households.
How is God teaching you to “sing a new song” during the pandemic?
We are doing mission in new ways. We live in Mwandi, a remote area of Zambia. We’ve been helping however we can, driving to nearby Livingstone to buy supplies for the hospital and community members. We have planted a vegetable patch to share with our neighbours, as fresh fruit and vegetables will become harder to find. All life is sacred, and we have a life-affirming obligation to protect the lives of all whom God has entrusted in our care – even more so during these times.
And an update from Ida, sent August 4th:
“We are currently at my daughter and son-in-law’s in Lusaka as my daughter is due to deliver any day. Covid is still increasing, though testing is still a challenge, so it is difficult to know the full amount. Interestingly, 60% of deaths recorded note that the people had an underlying Diabetes. Covid cases today stand at 213 new cases, bringing our total to 6,793 cases and 173 deaths, so numbers are increasing. Most of the testing is done in larger towns, so this is not accurate. People are wearing masks but still churches are gathering, espcially for funerals, with no proper spacing. Also in the market there is little social spacing (see photos above). A lot of people still say that coronavirus is just a story and not true.”
Scottish-born Ida Mary Waddell is a Mission Partner from the Church of Scotland to the United Church of Zambia, an ecumenical appointment supported by the Methodist Church since 2008. She has worked in Scotland, Denmark and Zimbabwe, and has been in Zambia since 1993 working in the Christian Health Sector as a School and Community Nurse, Theatre Nurse, HIV/AIDS Coordinator and Hospital Administrator at UCZ Mwandi Mission Hospital. She is married to Keith. They have six children and six grandchildren, with another due in August.