In Zimbabwe, a weeklong immunization campaign focuses on ending preventable diseases
By Bertha Shoko
SEKE, Zimbabwe, 27 June 2012 – At 10 a.m., Seke Rural North Clinic was a hive of activity. It was the first day of the National Immunization Days, a countrywide immunization campaign, and the turnout was huge.
In the queue was 29-year-old Lister Rikoma, who endured the winter chill and travelled 5 km to get her 9-month-old daughter, Ashley, immunized.
“I arrived here at exactly 8 a.m. because I wanted to be the first to be served, but when I got here, I found lots of people already here. But the nurses are working very fast…. my child has been vaccinated and I am now on my way home…”
A week-long campaign
The National Immunization Days campaign lasted from 18-22 June, a collaboration of UNICEF, the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe and the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from the Government of Japan and other international donors, including the Measles and Rubella Initiative (led by the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The campaign aimed to reach 1.9 million children under the age of 5 with vaccines against measles and polio and vitamin A supplements.
The campaign was part of the Zimbabwe Expanded Programme on Immunization, which focuses on controlling vaccine-preventable diseases. Zimbabwe’s 2011 full immunization rate of 65 per cent demonstrates a recovery from 2005, when the coverage rate was only 53 per cent.
Speaking at the official launch of the National Immunization Days, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Peter Salama said the week-long campaign was essential to Zimbabwean and regional efforts to eliminate measles and eradicate polio. He commended the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe for the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare’s continued commitment to the reduction of child mortality in Zimbabwe.
“Through co-ordinated action, we are walking in step with the collective global efforts to provide innovative and accelerated ways to reduce child mortality,” Dr. Salama said. “It has been a great privilege for me to work side-by-side with the Inclusive Government and partners towards ensuring the health of the future generation of this country.”
Reducing child mortality
The launch of the National Immunization Days comes after successful efforts to convince members of the Apostolic Faith, who also attended the official launch in Harare, to allow their children to be vaccinated.
“We are very encouraged by the efforts that have been made to reach out to members of the Apostolic Faith. We cannot ignore that they are important partners in our efforts to reduce child mortality in Zimbabwe,” said Dr. Salama.
The launch of the campaign comes a few days after UNICEF and the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe joined leaders from around the world at the Child Survival Call to Action, a meeting in Washington, D.C., where leaders reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating preventable child deaths.
“The Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe remains committed to reducing the high child mortality rates in the country,” said Dr. Henry Madzorera at the launch. “We urge all parents to ensure that their children receive these very important vaccines and vitamin A supplementation.”
“Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce child morbidity and child mortality,” said WHO Country Representative Dr. Custodia Mandlhate. “We must ensure that as many children as possible are reached during this nationwide campaign.”