|© UNICEF video|
|Zimbabwe’s Child Health Days aim to ensure a healthy start for all of the country’s children.|
By Tsitsi Singizi
UNICEF and partners are today announcing a dramatic reduction in worldwide measles mortality rates since 2000, especially in Africa. Here is just one of the success stories on immunization.
MUPANDAWANA, Zimbabwe, 29 November 2007 – One can still see the legacy of polio in the limping walks of a handful of villagers in Mupandawana, a small community with a population of 300.
As word spread that a national drive to prevent the resurgence of polio would begin this week, parents were unwavering in their support of the campaign – their memories still tainted with the reminder of bygone days when polio ruined childhoods.
It is this kind of community support that has made the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Child Health Days successful. Now in their third consecutive year, Child Health Days have played a significant role in raising immunization rates, reducing measles and boosting child survival in Zimbabwe.
In fact, these campaigns have helped increase immunization coverage for children under five to more than 80 per cent for all childhood vaccinations and vitamin A supplementation, and have contributed to an 84 per cent drop in measles cases since 2004.
“Often I have to travel for 10 to 15 kilometres in a day conducting door-to-door mobilization. Sometimes I am lucky with the help of the traditional leadership and I meet the people at central points,” said one community-based mobilizer, Hedwig Makumbe.
For the last two months, women such as Ms. Makumbe have been travelling across the country, even to the most remote communities, to make sure that everyone was aware of the national drive and its importance to overall child health.
|© UNICEF video|
|Strong mobilization efforts and community support have led to large turnouts for Zimbabwe’s Child Health Days.|
These are the country’s village health workers and community mobilizers, always at the forefront of raising awareness on the dangers of killer childhood diseases. Most important, these are the women who bring together traditional, religious and community leaders, ensuring support from all factions to make Child Health Days a success.
“These people will ensure that no child falls within the cracks,” said UNICEF’s Zimbabwe’s Head of Health, Dr. Colleta Kibassa. “Already they have conducted weeks of community mobilization activities to schools, community centres and clinics across the country, ensuring that all parents know why and where to take their children to be immunized.”
‘Many battles for children’
The current round of Child Health Days in Zimbabwe aims to reach all children under five years of age, providing them with polio vaccine, vitamin A supplements and basic childhood immunization. UNICEF is supporting the drive with funding from the UK Department for International Development, Canada’s International Development Agency and the Government of Ireland.
While Zimbabwe has not reported a polio case since 1990, there has been a looming threat from the neighbouring countries that have recorded cases in recent years.
“There remain many battles for children still to be won,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe. “But with continued international support, I am confident polio is one in a chain of victories.”