With the COVID-19 pandemic and its many sorrows has come a new appreciation for essential workers, and now a Roman Catholic nun in Zambia has been named one of “seven unsung heroes” by wealthy philanthropist Bill Gates.
Gates recently featured Sr. Astridah Banda in his popular “Gates Notes” newsletter and praised her work on FM 99.1 Yatsani Community Radio in Zambia, where she shares critical coronavirus information in multiple languages.
“When the coronavirus arrived in Zambia, she noticed that most of the public health bulletins about social distancing, masks, and handwashing were being written in English,” said Gates. “While English is an official language in Zambia, many people speak one of Zambia’s seven local languages and they were missing out on this critical information.”
Sister Banda asked if she could translate the COVID messages into those languages and then share them on the radio. FM 99.1 said yes, and she’s been holding the show – and reaching more than 1.5 million people – ever since.
“We spread them, the regular programs, around all these provinces we are operating from,” Banda said in an interview with U.S. diplomat David Young in Lusaka. “We are targeting other people who still need these key messages in the local language.”
As of Monday there were 13,800 confirmed coronavirus cases in Zambia, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. They include Vice President Inonge Mutukwa, who tested positive last month.
At least 324 people in Zambia have died because of the virus.
Image: U.S. Embassy Zambia