What Next For Zambia, As Peace Corps Begin To Leave.

“Today’s decision by the Peace Corps to withdraw its volunteers from China confirms what we all know — China is no longer a developing country. For too long, Beijing has fooled organizations such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization into believing otherwise so it could exploit our global institutions. It is time for these organizations, both U.S. and multilateral, to change the way they deal with China.”U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

This statement was issued on January, 2020 by the U.S Senator, after the Peace Corps formally notified members of Congress it will be withdrawing its volunteers from China beginning in June 2020, with little said if there would be a return.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, was among the first to voice his support for the decision in a statement.

Rubio ends the statement by saying, “It is time for these organizations, both U.S. and multilateral, to change the way they deal with China.”

Some are considering it long overdue citing previous Republicans that have made calls for a withdrawal from the country. A more recent effort to sever the relationship between the Peace Corps and China began in July 2019, when Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, introduced the Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act. Scott’s bill echoes the call for the agency to withdraw its volunteers from China — no later than Sept. 30 of this year — but it also proposes a more radical plan to pull the Peace Corps into tighter alignment with U.S. foreign policy goals. This is according to a story carried out by By Michael Igoe for DEVEX late January, 2020.

According to the Peace Corps website, the Zambian office was formalized after a country agreement in 1993. Peace Corps Zambia later opened its program in 1994 with a group of water and sanitation/hygiene education Volunteers. In 1996, the program expanded to include projects in community health and rural aquaculture. In 2003, a new education project was launched.

COPYRIGHT: PEACE CORPS
Dr. Jody King Olsen, Director — Peace Corps

On March 15, 2020 Director Jody Olsen, issued an open letter to all Peace Corps Volunteers, stating “I know this is a very stressful time for you and your families, your host communities and the staff at your post.

Josephine King Olsen is the 20th Director of the Peace Corps. She was sworn in on March 30, 2018, with the approval of incumbent President of the United States Donald Trump.

Dr. Olsen began her career as a Peace Corps Volunteer, serving in Tunisia from 1966–1968. She has since served the agency in multiple leadership positions — as Acting Director in 2009; Deputy Director from 2002–2009; Chief of Staff from 1989–1992; Regional Director, North Africa, Near East, Asia, Pacific from 1981–1984; and Country Director in Togo from 1979–1981. Prior to returning to the Peace Corps in 2018, Dr. Olsen served as Visiting Professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore School of Social Work and Director of the University’s Center for Global Education Initiatives.

In this capacity she developed and directed inter-professional global health projects for students in dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work.

She also oversaw health research projects in Malawi while teaching courses on international social work, global social policy, and global women and children’s health.

Throughout her career, Dr. Olsen has championed the expansion of service, learning and international opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds.

As you know, we recently evacuated Volunteers from China and Mongolia due to the COVID-19 outbreak and related travel constraints and school closings. Further evacuations are now under way at several posts. Unfortunately, it has become clear in the last 48 hours that numerous posts must follow suit.

It is against this backdrop that I have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all Peace Corps operations globally and evacuate all of our Volunteers. As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries, said Jody Olsen, Director Peace Corps, Washington D.C.

It’s been 26 years since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in 1994, and approximately 1,280 Volunteers have served in Zambia, now one of the largest Peace Corps programs in Africa. Volunteers live and work in eight of the nine provinces of Zambia.

They have apart from learning the local language across Zambia, assisted as education aids in most government school, also contributed to the country’s health/hygiene, research and development. More importantly the Peace Corps have assisted schools formulate workable adolescence ‘Sexual Health Awareness’ programmes that include ‘recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share’ and ‘Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs and seek care and treatment when needed’.

This withdraw of Peace Corps from Zambia begins immediately, with the first volunteer evacuation leaving the Capital Lusaka, as early as Thursday 19th March. This follows instructions that all Peace Corps are expected to proceed to designated assembly sites within 48 hours, of Dr. Olsen’s letter of notice to all, as further evacuations procedures are to be advised, before the whole process can be complete.

It is unknown as to when this contagion of COVID-19 will be normalized, if a vaccine is close, or when any vaccine is likely to be made public. However, we can all play a role and make sure we keep a more sanitized approach to our everyday lives, with ourselves and the people we continue to come into contact with.

This withdraw of Peace Corps from Zambia, will have a drastic effect on not only volunteers, but many adolescents, associates and hosts, that have benefited greatly from on-going programmes that exist in selected schools.

With many youth lacking credible mentors, counselors and guardians, evidently a good number have benefited from the Peace Corp Volunteer programmes across the country one way or another.

The Peace Corp is like a piece of the puzzle that may not be very visible, but makes a complete picture once you put all the pieces in the right place. In a time when adolescents are developmentally at a difficult crossroad, which makes it challenging to attract and sustain adolescents’ focus on maintaining their health. Every effort must be made to engage and retain adolescents in care so they can improve and maintain their health for the long term.

According to the Country Report, Zambia has an estimated population of 16.2 million people and it is estimated that 1.2 million people are living with HIV (PLHIV) (all ages). This figure is expected to increase to 1.3 million by 2020.

Many are still not sure how we will cope in the days, weeks or months following the spread of COVID-19, however, it is clear we are about to see more cancellation of concerts across Zambia

I am confident and hopeful that we will be in our normal day to day lives, way before events like the International Workshop on HIV & Adolescence 2020 are hosted on the proposed dates of September 30 — October 2 in Lusaka, Zambia.

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