Meet the Ambassador: The Ambassadors’ Club Interviews Diplomats in Isolation: The Ambassador of Zambia

Your Excellency the Ambassador of Zambia,

I. What is the role and what are the goals of the Ambassador of Zambia, in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic?
During this unprecedented period in living memory, I have continued to carry out my representational role as Ambassador as well as to promote the interests of my country as before but under constrained circumstances. In this regard, I have continued to interface with Israeli government institutions. In keeping with diplomatic practice, the main point of contact has been the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which has been most helpful in keeping the Diplomatic community abreast of measures taken by the host government in mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
During this period the Zambian Embassy has also been in contact with other institutions which has included the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce and the organizers of Cybertech events who have held online events on the implications of Coronavirus pandemic in their areas of interest. This has been very educational for us as an Embassy.
Further, the  Embassy in keeping with its role as a diplomatic mission has also continued to keep our home government informed on the situation in Israel though of late, the focus has shifted to how the country has been impacted by COVID-19 and the measures it has taken in response. This has been valuable in benchmarking our own response as a country. Related to this, we have also been passing on information to our country, regarding resources available in this country to combat the pandemic. These have been mainly pharmaceutical products and emerging technology.
Our Consular function has also received special attention. We have increased contact with our nationals in this country, the great majority of whom are students. This has been for the purpose of monitoring their welfare and communicating to them relevant information. We have furthermore passed on information to the Israeli government, concerning changes that our country has made to the Visa policy in light of the spread of the Coronavirus.
Regarding my role as the Dean of the African Group of Ambassadors, I wish to let you know that we have suspended our activities such as meetings, tours, and functions. We have however maintained communication electronically among ourselves to exchange information of interest.
II. How does your Embassy operate in the light of the confinement imposed on all our us by the pandemic?
The operations of our Embassy are now being carried out in the context of the regulations and guidelines set by the Israeli government which has been communicated to us through the Chief of Protocol. We are therefore maintaining skeletal staff at the Chancery. In addition, our Locally Engaged Staff are on Leave and are only contacted by electronic means when required. As for Diplomatic Staff, only a few go to the Embassy and do so on a rotational basis. As for me, I have been confined to the Residence. We are therefore coordinating our activities electronically.
III. How does Zambia and Africa in general cope with this dramatic situation?
The African Union( AU) has decided to implement a common continental response to the pandemic to achieve mainly two things. One is to bolster the continent’s health systems which have been facing considerable challenges even before the Coronavirus emerged and second is to mitigate the economic fall out from the pandemic. To achieve these objectives, the AU working with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa, -CDC ) has launched a COVID-19 Response Fund to finance these activities. Furthermore, the AU Chairperson, President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Special Envoys of the AU to mobilize international support for the continent from such organizations as the G20 and EU to address the economic challenges that will result from COVID-19.
Among measures that have been recommended is a comprehensive package to include deferment of debt and interest payments.
AU member states like my own country Zambia have implemented their own measures to deal with the effects of the pandemic both in terms of health and the economy. Regulations have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus such as imposing restrictions on public gatherings, reduction of people reporting for work, etc. There have also been health interventions that include surveillance, testing, and quarantine. These are being carried out in liaison with international organizations mainly WHO and the AU. The country has also taken action to mitigate the effects on the economy by providing support to sectors badly affected. It is engaging with the International community in this endeavor.
III. Do you have a message for the Israeli people at this unprecedented time of history?
I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to the Israeli people for being such good hosts to the diplomatic community. We have felt included and glad that our interests are taken into account in the implementation of measures taken in combating the Coronavirus. We have been kept informed in the process. I, therefore, thank the Government of the State of Israel through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for making this possible. I would also like to thank the Diplomatic Club for extending their hand of friendship in conjunction with Municipal Councils to lessen the burden that the pandemic has had on all of us.
I trust that the Israeli people will continue to exhibit the resilience that they have been able to do over the years in confronting the many challenges that have come their way. I pray that the Israeli society will emerge stronger from this experience and will continue to play its role in the search for solutions to this problem that has confronted humankind.
I wish good health and prosperity to all.
Martin C. Mwanambale
Ambassador of Zambia
to the State of Israel