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Outreach vaccination in Zimbabwe during Child Health Days.

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2009/Li
UNICEF Measles Advisor Maya Vandenent and UNICEF Zimbabwe Immunization Officer Ranganai Matema with a group of mothers and their children.

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.

By Tsitsi Singizi

HARARE, Zimbabwe, 18 June 2009 – UNICEF recently supported a successful round of outreach vaccinations during 'Child Health Days'. The intensive five-day campaign reached even the most remote communities in Zimbabwe.

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The campaign recorded a huge turnout, a positive sign in light of the country's recent 'twin disaster' – a cholera epidemic heightened by a collapse in both the health and social services sectors.

 "Clinics and hospital are open. Nurses are back at work and the turnout for the child health days is huge," said UNICEF Country Representative, Roeland Monasch. "This is good news. A year ago the health sector had almost collapsed.  Today, the nurses are back and the benefits for children are immense."

Health campaign aids the most difficult to reach

Thousands of health workers and volunteers trained by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare conducted outreach activities, as children were vaccinated from tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and polio.

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2009/Li
Vaccinators at mobile outreach point in Masvingo District, Zimbabwe.

Social mobilization campaigns had been effective, as evidenced by the long queues in most communities.

"This particular campaign has been vital," said Mr. Monasch." It has been a critical boost to health services that were under great stress and essential for maintaining immunization for Zimbabwe's children."

Rise in immunization coverage for children under five

UNICEF is supported to carry out the health days by the UK's Department International Development (DFID), the Japanese Government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centre for Disease Control, and the UNICEF UK and Dutch National Committees. The days are hosted in partnership with the Helen Keller Foundation.  UNICEF has invested almost three million dollars on vaccines, logistics, staff time and social mobilization.

"The results for children have been fantastic," said Mr. Monasch.  "The community spirit, dedication of health workers and collaboration of donors has been encouraging. Indeed, the child health days should underscore to the world why there is so much reason to be positive about in Zimbabwe."




17 June 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on outreach vaccination in Zimbabwe during Child Health Days.
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