By Derrick Sinjela
Zambia’s tourist capital, is one of the country’s busiest border and transit towns but the money that it has brought in has come at the cost of health for the residents of this historic town.
As a gateway to Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Livingstone has not attracted trade in merchandise only; it has invited sex trade and those who pay the price for dealing in it — young women and truck drivers, among others.
Some of the victims who pay the biggest price for that commerce, though, one charity has found, are children.
Here’s how it works, and how a faith-based group is tackling the challenge.
Livingstone is an entry and exit point for those who fly, drive and walk in – both foreigners and Zambians.
Of those who drive, a large number of truck drivers passing through Livingstone and in the process they have lots of contact with people – and particularly contact with sex workers or girlfriends who put them and the people they are in contact with at risk of contracting HIV.
Being one of the busiest borders, it takes a long time to for trucks to clear through the Zambia Revenue Authority check point. In the process, truckers find ways to fill the time.
“With many tourists, workers or even workshop attendees coming in from any country to Livingstone, there are some who bring the virus in and others who take it away with them,” says Father Jackson Katete, the Parish Priest for Livingstone Anglican Parish.
Little wonder the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Livingstone is about 30.1per cent
Faced with this social dilemma, the Anglican Church decided to join the fight against AIDS.
The Livingstone Anglican parish established the children’s project in 1996 to the sufferings of the people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS among who were widows and orphans.
“Since there were other organisations that dealt with the widows such as the Young Women’s Christian Association and the Christian Council of Zambia, the project concentrated on the plight of orphans and vulnerable children and was named Ngwenya Kids Paradise,” Fr Katete, who has been the Parish Priest of all Anglican Churches in Livingstone since 2005, said.
There are five Anglican churches scattered around the townships of Livingstone (Maramba, Dambwa, Ngwenya and Airport Compound).
Fr Katete said at one of the meetings, members expressed worry about the stigma in the name, hence the change to Livingstone Anglican Children’s Project. Livingstone Anglican Children’s Project (LACP) operates under the Zambian Anglican Church.
LACP is a community and faith-based organisation which works for the benefit of all, irrespective of faith, to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans and children who are affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS.
“LACP works to give direct support to children within its community, to sustain families, to keep children within the African extended family structure and to give hope to orphans and vulnerable children,” said Fr Katete, who has been directing the operations of LACP since 2006.
LACP works through volunteer caregivers, elected community representatives and counsellors.
It seeks to move communities, help families and support their economic activities so that they can become self-sustaining and can manage their lives – including the care of their orphans and vulnerable children.
LACP has just renewed working with the International Labour Organisation/International Programme on the Elimination of Child labour (ILO/IPEC) to withdraw and prevent children from child labour and integrate them into schools via transitional schooling.
Selected parents or guardians are being helped with income-generating activities to eventually enable them to support their children and consequently reduce donor dependence.
This is the second ILO/IPEC child labour programme that LACP has worked on.
LACP is also working with Every Orphan’s Hope in providing school and home supplements to orphans.
The programme gives support to families that keep orphans so they can provide them with the structure and love that children need.
LACP also works with Firelight Foundation to counsel children through recreation activities, building play park equipment in Dambwa and Ngwenya for about 350 children for organised activities on Saturdays. As the children play, they learn assertiveness skills and counsellors are at hand to counsel them. LACP also provides training for caregivers.