Zimbabwe launches measles immunization and child health days
Today the Honorable Minister of Health and Child Welfare launched the measles immunization and child health days in Harare. This year the campaign is targeting all children from 6 months to 14 years for measles and vitamin A supplementation and all the other antigens for child health days. This mass immunization campaign comes as a response to the current measles outbreak which has affected 55 out of 62 districts, and killed 384 children. Today’s launch was preceded by a breakfast meeting where partners, the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, civic leaders and the Ministries of Health, education and gender came together to discuss the finer details of the campaign. The breakfast meeting saw some private companies and the parliamentary committee on health pledging to support all immunisation activities during and after the campaign. The parliamentary committee on health urged everybody to take advantage of the constitutional reform process underway and make sure issues of child health and immunisation are enshrined in the new constitution. This, they said, will effectively deal with all objectors and ensure that no child dies from vaccine preventable diseases in Zimbabwe.
In her speech to mark the launch, WHO Representative, Dr Custodia Mandlhate acknowledged the high level commitment from the government of Zimbabwe. She paid tribute to the office of the Prime Minister for organizing the stakeholders consultative conference with leaders of the apostolic churches, who are the known objectors to immunization. She also acknowledged the donor support that made the campaign possible. In March 2010 WHO and UNICEF appealed for around USD 8.5mil to curb the measles epidemic, and in response donors came to Zimbabwe ’ s aid. “ I want to publicly thank all donors that came in response to our resource mobilization efforts, including the CERF (Central Emergency Relief Fund ); ECHO; DFID; JAECA and other traditional donors for immunization programmes, ” said Dr Mandlhate. She also said WHO, UNICEF and other health cluster members are providing human and material resources, and technical support to make the campaign a success. Dr Mandlhate urged everybody to commit to taking actions that will ensure that no child dies of vaccine preventable diseases in Zimbabwe. She also called for commitment to improve routine immunization in order to cover the vaccination needs of all childrenchildren, and she appealed for more donor funding to resuscitate the health system which will in turn improve routine immunization programs.
These same sentiments were echoed by the UNICEF Representative, Dr Peter Salama in his remarks. Salama said the measles outbreak presents an opportunity to advocate for the revitalization of the health system. “ W e can use the outbreak to improve Zimbabwe ’ s health sector,” said Salama. He also appealed for more support and more partnerships in order to achieve this. He urged everybody to work together and make sure that all children who are targeted for immunization are immunized during the campaign. He said this campaign is the largest campaign in Zimbabwe in over a decade targeting approximately 5 000 000 children, and as such it needed the support of every member of the community to make it a success.
In his statement, the Honorable Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera said today is a great day in Zimbabwe ’ s history, following on the heels of another historic day—the consultative conference with the leaders of apostolic sects. He applauded the parliamentary committee on health and the office of the Prime Minister for making the consultative conference possible, and bringing the apostolics to discuss immunization and child health issues. Dr Madzorera said the index case of the current measles outbreak came from an apostolic gathering, and the fact that these traditional objectors who reject immunization and other health interventions agreed to come and discuss is a great achievement. He also said that a great number of children from these sects have never been vaccinated and it is hoped that this campaign will not miss them again.
Dr Madzorera called upon everybody, including politicians, traditional leaders to mobilize their constituencies to have all eligible children vaccinated. “ Measles doesn't respect political, religious, or any other affiliation, so lets put our differences aside and work together for the success of the campaign,” Dr Madzorera said.
He also acknowledged the support the Ministry has received from its partners WHO and UNICEF who mobilized funds for this campaign. He said through their mobilization efforts, more vaccines and other resources were mobilized for a campaign of this magnitude. Normally children under 5 years are targeted for child health days but because of the measles outbreak, all children from birth to under 15 years will be vaccinated for measles and receive vitamin A supplements.
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