Workers at National Heroes Stadium cholera centre in Lusaka yesterday downed their tools demanding for an increment in their risk allowances from the government.
The workers who abandoned the cholera patients alleged that they were paid only K50 ($5) each per day instead of the agreed K350 ($36).
The Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Kennedy Malama however dismissed the strike action saying the protesting workers were community workers who were engaged to participate in the cholera response at an agreed small allowance.
And as government we would like to encourage all those who were engaged to participate in this response to put the lives and the health of the broader Zambians at the centre where some allowances are available as agreed, they will be given.
Dr Malama said the community workers’ request for an increment to what was originally agreed on is a misplaced request because an agreement was made at the beginning.
“Let me put it very categorical that all health workers under government who are working during this difficult time of the cholera response are on salary. But we have also been working very closely with the community members and those community members were informed that after working, periodically they will be given something small to say thank you as you know these are not government workers,” Dr Malama said.
Zambians on social media however questioned the government’s response to the workers concerns, pointing out that the government had allocated a lot of funds towards curbing the cholera outbreak and could surely afford to pay more than $4 to workers putting their lives at risk.
The government has recently been tasked by non-governmental organisations to give accountability for the funds used in the fight against cholera.
The funds include a K99 million expenditure figure released by the country’s treasury as money spent so far to curb the cholera outbreak.
Citizens and the civil society have also demanded for full disclosure of all the donations the government received from corporate companies and international partners including $419,000 from the Chinese government, embassy and enterprises.
The health minister, Dr. Chitafu Chilufya this week promised that a full statement ‘showing all the donations and expenditure items such as procurement of chemicals and payment of allowances to health workers’ will soon be released.
Dr Malama encouraged all those engaged in the cholera response to put the lives and health of the broader Zambians at the centre.
“And as government we would like to encourage all those who were engaged to participate in this response to put the lives and the health of the broader Zambians at the centre where some allowances are available as agreed, they will be given. But for health workers who are under government, its their responsibility to save life. When it comes on allowances, we ride on the agreed conditions,” said Dr Malama.
Zambia has been striving to contain a cholera outbreak that has claimed over 70 lives, with over 2000 cases recorded.