Zimbabwe has unveiled a new United Nations-supported campaign to boost the health of the country`s children and protect them from measles.
Targeting some 5 million children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years, the new campaign " the largest in the African nation in more than a decade " includes a mass immunization drive and the supply of vitamin A supplements.
The vaccination drive, which was launched yesterday in Harare, the capital, is a response to the current measles outbreak. The outbreak has affected 55 out of Zimbabwe`s 62 districts and claimed the lives of 384 children, despite an earlier vaccination of more than 148,000 children in 23 districts.
Just before the campaign`s launch, the Zimbabwean parliamentary committee on health urged all parties to ensure that the issues of child health and immunization are enshrined in the country`s new constitution to prevent child death from preventable diseases.
We can use the outbreak to improve Zimbabwe`s health sector, " said Peter Salama, the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in the country.
He called for more support and strengthened partnerships, with the participation of all members of the community essential in making the new health campaign, carried out in conjunction with Zimbabwe`s Health and Child Welfare Ministry, a success.
For her part, Custodia Mandlhate, Representative of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), paid tribute to donors for their support for the drive, as well as to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai`s office for organizing talks with the leaders of apostolic churches that had objected to immunization.
Earlier this month, the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) released $5.6 million to help protect children from measles in Zimbabwe.
The CERF contribution will allow for urgent programmes to immunize children against this deadly disease, " UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said at the time. Halting the spread of measles now should avert a number of preventable deaths. "