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Friday, 23 February 2018

Zambia in US$16 million fillip for Gender Based Violence fight ……..World Vision launches “every hour matters” for victims

The gravity of GBV on victims like such has resulted in "Every Hour Matters"

Feb. 23 (Zambia Informer)-------The United States of America and Britain, key global campaigners against Gender Based Violence (GBV),  have contributed to Zambia over US$16 million towards eradication of the vice, which has seen thousands of survivors leaving it too late to seek medication or justice.

The gesture of goodwill extended to Zambia comes in the aftermath of various victims of the vice, falling prey to the machinations of their spouses-delay in seeking medication or legal assistance to reduce the increasing burden of over 65,000 survivors of the GBV in the Southern African state.
Research by the United States,  through its Presidential initiative-the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/Emergency Plan established in 2003 to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa joined by the UKAid, illustrates the urgent need to reverse the trend-what with the increasing number of victims of the vice, chiefly women, which has remained unabated.

The World Vision, the global poverty and injustice campaigner, founded in 1950 by Dr. Bob Pierce, a young pastor and missionary is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome the vices globally.
Pierce, then a young pastor and missionary, first sent to China and South Korea in 1947 by the Youth for Christ missionary organization started his crusade to ensure some of the vices that impede the development of children, women and families alike were redressed if the envisaged global equality for all was to be attained.
In one of its missions in Zambia-fighting GBV, World Vision International says there is need for multisectoral response towards fighting the increasing numbers of the scourge, which has claimed various victims, mainly women, who do neither seek medical or legal assistance as soon as the act is committed, leaving the victims vulnerable.
Wezi Kaira, the WVI Director, Integrated Programmes in launching the campaign dubbed:  “Every Hour Matters” in Lusaka-Feb. 23, urged  victims or survivors to exercise their right to seek redress to the injustice inflicted on them. There is need to use third parties including spouses if the trend was to be stopped forthwith, using relevant medical, counseling and legal authorities within their localities.
“We are worried about the increasing levels of GBV survivors-imagine we have in excess of 65,000 cases (survivors) and unless victims adopt the concept we are launching today, we risk leaving the affected people to injustice,” Kaira said during the launch.

And speaking on the sidelines of the launch, Kaira lauded the US, through its USAID and Britain, through its UKAid departments for financing over US$16 million to fight the vice for the period 2012-2018, subject to extension.
While the GBV fight is intended to cover all the 106 districts so far created but instead taken up a paltry 16, it was World Vision’s determination to ensure that the services and gesture to reach the underprivileged, chiefly in rural parts of Zambia were sensitized.
It remains the right of every victim to seek legal and medical and other assistance deemed inevitable if exposed to GBV services, hence the need for people, mainly women to adopt the concept: “Every Hour Counts”  to save lives.
And Jabbin Mulwanda, Zambia’s health ministry Permanent Secretary regretted the increasing cases of GBV in Zambia, estimated at 47 percent with a call to victims to step their action and use the facility set up under the auspices of the WVI.
He regretted the culture of silence among the victims, many of them fearing loss of livelihood or marriages, being dependent on the architects of the vice, spouses and that unless people exercised independence of mind, redressing the GBV was bound to fail in Zambia hence the call for all to maximize the “Every Hour Matters” facility.
“We need to time on time to ensure the matter is redressed because every minute or hour lost, affects the victim of GBV,” he said. “Regrettably, less than 40 percent of the victims of GBV report such cases to relevant authorities for redress and this is what is causing the rise in the numbers.

Zambia disowns bit coin ‘We’ll stick to our Kwacha as legal tender’

Bitcoin--'Zambia's central Bank does not want to take the risk'.Pix:Reuters
Feb. 21 (Zambia Informer) ------Zambia will not be swayed into accepting the use of bit coins alongside the local currency, the Kwacha because it is the country’s legal tender, says Denny Kalyalya, the head of the Central Bank.

Since the invention in 2009 of the crypto currency, a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange, using cryptography to control its creation and management, rather than relying on central authorities, many countries have accepted to use it alongside their own flat currencies.

This, for want of information by end users, has had in some cases, affected economic growth of affected countries, while other players in the economy and have lost out along the way for various reasons.

The presumed pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto integrated many existing ideas from the cypherpunk community when creating bitcoin, according to data.

However, the Lusaka-based Bank of Zambia perceives the bitcoin with skepticism and would not want to introduce it in the economy at the expense of its own recogonised legal tender-the Kwacha, used and still in circulation since independence from Britain in 1964.

“We have no immediate plans to introduce bitcoins in Zambia to operate alongside our Kwacha,” Kalyalya told Lusaka-based journalists Wednesday, Fe. 21. “We really need to understand what bitcoins really are, its origin and the real benefits to our economy, otherwise for now, we are content with our kwacha.”

Several countries, including some named African states, are scrambling to adopt the bitcoin based on various fundamentals, with some assuming the crypto currency, will bolster economic growth and further assist resolve some escalating debt levels owed to various local and foreign creditors, leaving them vulnerable to default on due dates.

According to data, over the course of bit coin’s history, it has undergone rapid growth to become a significant currency both on and offline – from the mid 2010s onward, some businesses on a global scale began accepting bit coins in addition to fiat currencies.
Prior to the release of bitcoin there were a number of digital cash technologies starting with the issuer based ecash protocols of David Chaum and Stefan BrandsAdam Back developed hash cash, a proof-of-work scheme for spam control.
 The first proposals for distributed digital scarcity based crypto currencies were.   Wei Dai's b-money and Nick Szabo's bit gold.  Hal Finney developed reusable proof of work (RPOW) using hashcash as its proof of work algorithm.
In the bit gold proposal which proposed a collectible market based mechanism for inflation control, Nick Szabo also investigated some additional enabling aspects including a Byzantine fault-tolerant asset registry to store and transfer the chained proof-of-work solutions.
There has been much speculation as to the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto with suspects including Dai, Szabo, and Finney – and accompanying denials. The possibility that Satoshi Nakamoto was a computer collective in the European financial sector has also been discussed.
On 18 August 2008, the domain name bitcoin.org was registered. Later that year on 31 October, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list.
 This paper detailed methods of using a peer-to-peer network to generate what was described as "a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust".
 In January 2009, the bitcoin network came into existence with the release of the first open source bitcoin client and the issuance of the first bitcoins, with Satoshi Nakamoto mining the first block of bitcoins ever (known as the genesis block), which had a reward of 50 bitcoins. Embedded in the coinbase of this block was the text:
This note has been interpreted as both a timestamp of the genesis date and a derisive comment on the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking.
Very Low Fees. currently there are either no fees, or very low fees within Bitcoin payments.Digital Currency exchanges help merchant process transactions by converting bitcoins into fiat currency. These services generally have lower fees than credit cards and PayPal.
There is a possibility that governments might force merchants to not use Bitcoins to ensure that users' transactions can be tracked.  If a hard drive crashes, or a virus corrupts data, and the wallet file is corrupted, Bitcoins have essentially been “lost”.  There is nothing that can done to recover it.

Cautionary note:
While Bitcoin  was the first of what have become known as "cryptocurencies" and are  forms of digital money that use encryption to secure transactions and control the creation of new units they have their own implications.

Economic commentators argue that the plan was to make a form of currency not controlled by governments or businesses, that you could trade globally with no cost and without having to reveal your identity.
The popularity of Bitcoin has spawned many copycats - sometimes called "altcoins".
To make things more confusing, there are also "second generation" virtual currencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash.
Bitcoin has hit the mainstream over the last few months as the decentralised digital currency continues to hit ridiculous heights.
It pushed past the $10,000 mark for the first time recently, which is double its price just a month ago, ten times its price in January 2018 and an astonishing 100,000 times what it was worth in 2010.

Some investors are cautious about it whilst others are trying to capitalise on the trend. Some people are even trying to sell their house for Bitcoin, yet do not understand the risks involved, commentators say.

‘Pressure mounts on Zambia over ban of plastic bags’ …….’stakeholders warn of severe costs, environmental consequences’ (update)

Plastic bags---its  frequent usage has caused environmental pollution. The Star
Feb. 23 (Zambia Informer) ------ Zambia’s reluctance to join other global environmentalists over the ban of plastic bags, has forced the country’s regulatory agency to bow to pressure and have a change of heart, prompting a call by the regulatory body to seek guidance from authorities for  consideration of a gradual elimination of the hazard, reports say.

Despite increasing pressure by the Southern African state to consider banning the use of plastic bags, because of severe environmental and other costs related to the practice, the regulatory body, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), recently opted to support the retention of the plastic materials for monetary purposes-through recycling to empower citizens.

However the agency has backtracked on its earlier word and instead recommends a gradual ban on the use of the plastic bags in the country and to hasten this process, it recommends that the idea be matured by way of enacting an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulation to assist manage the packaging material which usually ends up waste.

Amid pressure from various players, environmentalists, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – associated independent thinkers and having taken a leaf from European and African countries that have taken blanket bans over the use of plastic bags, revising rules that users instead bring their own paper bags when shopping, ZEMA is reconsidering its stance.

John Msimuko, the agency’s director general  recommends a gradual ban on the use of plastics in the country to be spurred through a legislation ( Extended Producer Responsibility-EPR), ostensibly to help manage the packaging materials plastics included, which usually, if not all,  end up as waste.

Citing Section 58 of the Environmental Management Act No. 12 of 2011(EMA) providing for EPR and demands that very producer be responsible for their waste, Msimuko has sought a stakeholders’ consultative process to facilitate the enactment of the regulation while awaiting finalization of the regulations through relevant government processes, he adds in a statement availed to Zambia Informer, Feb. 22
 “ZEMA and other stakeholders both public and private are currently engaged in processes aimed at ensuring the gradual phase out of plastics in Zambia is implemented soon,”
The Agency envisions the finalization of the EPR legislation in addressing continued concerns on use of plastic bags and plastic packaging materials. It hopes the legislation will go a long way in improving the responsibility of manufacturers of such products in waste management.
ZEMA’s mandate, as established under the Environmental Management Act of 2011 is to, among other tasks, advice on policy formulation and makes recommendations for the sustainable management of the environment.
With Rwanda, having shown a good example of its seriousness to counter the effects of plastic bags on the environment and United Kingdom having passed legislation that has helped reduce the use of plastic bags by 85 percent, the 28-member-European Union countries have formulated a scheme to outlaw plastic bags by 80 percent.
In a vote passed in the European Parliament in 2014, the member states want all member states to rid the plastic bags and other related products by 80 percent before the year end 2019. Countries have been directed to devise new regulations including surcharges or complete ban as a boost to conservation and help reduce plastic litter.
All supermarkets have been advised to press a surcharge on all customers seeking new plastics from affected shops and are being encouraged to use paper bags to fight the environmental hazard, according to the UK-based Daily Mail.
The lawmakers have demanded full compliance by every member state to bring in tough new measures to slash the use of plastic bags, after a key EU vote received overwhelming response from lawmakers.

"Euro MPs voted in favour of strict new targets forcing each country to reduce plastic bag use by 80 per cent before 2019.  "The decision is a huge boost for conservationists, who have been fighting for years to reduce the huge volumes of devastating plastic litter harming the environment," the report by Daily Mail adds.

News Just In!-----'Hear the news first!

·         *     Zambia bows to pressure over ban of plastic carrier bag demands
     *  Zambia in US$16 million fillip for Gender Based Violence fight
·          *    Zambia rejects bitcoin use in circulation, wants to stick to Kwacha as legal tender

Stories coming soon.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

National Health Insurance Bill inimical-ZCTU……..’may petition ILO over the impasse’ (update)

File Photo:Njovu (left) seeks recall of health bill from Parliament.Pix: LT


Feb. 22 (Zambia Informer)------The Government should consider withdrawing the National Health Insurance Bill from Parliament, pending enactment into law, because it does not represent the views of all stakeholders-largely the employers, Zambia’s leading labour movement has demanded.

Meanwhile, the Government has reiterated its desire to push the National Health Insurance Bill number 22 of 2017 into law as it represents the welfare of all Zambians irrespective of their status, many underprivileged and is unable to access medical care services for want of resources but it is ready to dialogue on the matter.

Recently, Zambia Federation of Employers president Wesley Chishimba and ZCTU deputy secretary general Elaston Njovu contended that the unilateral decision by Government to push the bill through Parliament lacked consensus from key players and that if enacted into law, will stifle the livelihood of most of the citizenry that are struggling day on end, with a call to recall it.

ZFE, describing the action as unethical, especially that it lacked the blessing of the Tripartite Labour Consultative Council (TLCC) argued that  while it appreciates the concerns of Government of health issues, it lacked their input.

“This is unfortunate to say the least and we humbly, urge the Minister of Health to without delay, withdraw it from Parliament as it does not mean well for the Zambian workers, our members, the companies and the public.”

ZCTU had contended that it was unfair for the Government to bypass the ministry of labour and instead assume its responsibility of handling the social security programme arguing the move was a ploy to meet the financial needs to smoothen the operations of the health ministry as well as ignore established procedures.

“In this regard the Ministry of Health’s mandate should be limited to health service delivery by ensuring that there are adequate health facilities and adequate qualified medical personnel in hospitals.  The insurance schemes should be run by pension schemes to avoid duplication of responsibility.” Njovu had contended earlier.

The Government has since dispelled fears by the employer bodies and that there is no cause for fear. All stakeholders will be consulted on the matter before enacting into law, Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya and Central Committee member for health and Bwana Mkubwa lawmaker, Jonas Chanda.

However, ZCTU remains unsatisfied and has maintained that the bill be recalled from Parliament for onward dialogue adding that it is uncomfortable that the National Health Insurance Bill is being handled by the ministry of health instead of Labour under which the jurisdiction falls.

“ZCTU has no issues with the Health Scheme for the public service but is opposed to the manner the government is handling the process of enacting the proposed National Health Insurance because it is being handled by the ministry of health which does not deal with the workers welfare, especially on Matters of social protection,” Njovu told Lusaka-based journalist, Thursday, Feb. 22.

He clarified the misconception that the ZCTU was overstepping its boundaries  by indulging the pension scheme for public service workers but that its interest is the general populace and its affiliates.

According to ZCTU, the proposed National Health Insurance is different from the Health Insurance Scheme for public service workers which was signed  between the Public Service Unions and Government and was due to come into effect in January this year but is interest in the former.

Njovu contended that ZCTU was opposed to the National Health bill in its current and seeks one that conforms to the specific international standards as guided by the International Labour Organisation recommendation 202, which provides guidance on how countries can implement social protection systems, while embracing all players.

“The NHI should be part of the larger social Protection package and it is for this reason that the scheme should be regulated by the ministry of labour and social security which handles matters of social protection....we wonder how the NHI can be placed under the Ministry of Health”

ZCTU has since reiterated its desire for constructive dialogue with Government over the matter and avoid arm twisting with interested parties, failure to which the workers movement may seek further recource to higher authorities to seek redress.

“We are not interested in differing with the Government but our appeal is that we need to dialogue because the matter at hamnd differs from the initial bill which currently undergoing consultations in the TCLC of the ministry of health.

“If all fails, we may have to raise the complaint with the ILO when we attend the next meeting with Government to seek redress.” Njovu  added.


Zambia propels compulsory health insurance law ………’As workers, employers to share 1%’

Health Minister Chilufya petitioned to withdraw health bill. pix:Mwebantu

Feb. 21 (Zambia Informer)------Zambia has stepped up efforts to formulate a law and compel the 16 million populace to contribute towards accessing health care,  in a cost sharing manner, comparable to other European and African countries.

The National Health Insurance Bill number 22 of  2017,  before Parliament and expected to compel all the more than 16 million population in informal and formal employment access medical care from  various health institutions in the country based on their contributions, has already undergone first of the three readings, pending final review and enactment into law.

If the bill goes through the legislative process in Parliament, it will be known as National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA. This implies that all people will be obliged to register to a particular health scheme in which they will remit some of their earnings as contribution towards the medical care services.

This body will in turn, be mandated to collect money from the citizenry, chiefly all workers and employers through their monthly payroll and from every Zambian aged 18 years and above, including pensioners, exempting only those above 70 years old.

The resources would then be used through the Treasury and later ministry of health to provide medical services to Zambians from would-be government accredited health centres, according to data.

The Government argues that in comparison to many other countries, Rwanda, Botswana, Ghana, among others that have adopted and enacted into law,  the compulsory scheme, it will reduce the burden on the treasury in which financing of health care treatment and facilities are solely state responsibility.

It argues that the initiative is part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Universal health care as espoused under the Sustainable Development Goal number three, which strives to provide people with adequate and affordable medicine or treatment in case of an ailment?

The scheme, being championed, is espoused to be implemented under the 2017-2021 Seventh National Development Programme, an agenda that seeks to ensure people have reliable, affordable medical care, under a cost-sharing arrangement and will be compulsory to all people of various classes in society.

In defending the would be law, which has drawn different opinions from players, labour movements and other interest groups, Government says the decision will assist in alleviating the plight of the majority citizenry that are faced with medical costs in the event of an illness.

Jonas Chanda,  a lawmaker, who  is also a member on Parliamentary committee for health of the ruling Patriotic Front  says it is Zambia’s desire to operate in tandem  with the Universal Declaration on Health Care as espoused globally which Zambia needs to align to.

Speaking recently during a PF-media interactive forum recently, Dr. Chanda added that the reactions from various interest groups but argues that the policy is for the betterment of both the working class and the non-employed.

This will ultimately enable them access medical care without challenges based on their contributions to various schemes.  This is envisaged to reduce the medical burden faced by people.

“The law will cover over 96 percent of the population without a health schemes to assist them meet medical costs in case of an illness,” he says.  “The Government seeks to align itself with the Universal Health Care which has been adopted globally,”

Chanda cited Rwanda, where the scheme has proved successful and reduced the cost burden by eth public while almost all the citizenry have registered under various schemes and has helped reduce the utilization of tax payers’ money.

Recently, Health Minister, Chitalu Chilufya assured the Parliamentary Accounts Committee on Health, community Development and social services that the country’s transformative agenda for inclusive economic growth hinges a successful enhanced human development.

The insurance bill under contention forms part of the global health agenda which Zambia cannot be alienated from for the accessing universal health coverage to be realized. Despite the negative reactions from various players, Zambia was on course and would ensure all the people are consulted on the formulation of the policy.

“We are on the right track and we shall not stop this process……we shall continue with stakeholder consultation to bring everybody to embrace their ideas to come up with a common agenda”

Dr. Chilufya in his presentation of the bill in Parliament on 8 Dec. last year told lawmakers that the bill aims at providing for sound financing of the national health system and universal access to quality insured healthcare services.

The bill further seeks to provide the national health insurance management authority and provide for its functions and powers.
It will further provide for the establishment of the national health insurance scheme, and provide for its systems, procedures and operation.

Zambia’s proposed or intended enactment of the health law, comes on the heels of South Africa seeking to expedite the enactment of the same scheme and ensure the people have less or fewer challenges, financially to meet medical bills.

However, the labour movement is divided over the enactment of the National Health Insurance scheme into law with some saying it was agreed during a recent Tripartite Consultative Labour Council and is now enshrined under various collective agreements.

While the National Health bill seeks to encompass all the citizenry, the labour movement is happy that the workers, who have been overburden will sigh with relief because of reduced costs of medical attention.

 According to the collective agreements signed with Government last year, workers will contribute one percent of their gross earnings with their employers contributing another one percent, monthly towards the scheme, says UG president, Muyaywa Kabisa and his NUPPEZ counterpart, Victor Muyumba at different media briefings in Lusaka.

“Supporting the bill is the only way of removing the financial barriers to accessing health services on the part of Zambians and also reducing costs of preventing and managing communicable diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB), HIV, non communicable ones such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and heart diseases,” said Muyumba.

National Union of Private and Public Educators of Zambia leader, Kabisa supports the idea adding: “As workers, we are looking forward to the national health insurance bill, we support the process as can be seen from our 2018 collective agreement,” 

Others,  Zambia National of Teachers (ZNUT) and Basic Education Teachers Union (BETUZ), among others, support the bill and that it will alleviate the plight of the already overburdened workers that have to grapple with medical bills amid other taxable incomes.

But the mother labour unions-Zambia Congress of Trade Union and Zambia Federation of Employers oppose it. They have since called for the withdrawal of the bill from Parliament and allow for consultation arguing the matter was handled unilaterally.

Dr. Chanda says the decision if undertaken would be retrogressive and called for dialogue and sensitization of various interest groups as the law if enacted will benefit the majority of the people, the have nots especially, who have had to be turned away from health centres for want of resources to meet the cost of medication.