Zimbabwe to Vaccinate 5 Million Children

Mavis Gama

Zimbabwe has teamed up with United Nations agencies to conduct a week-long Mass Drug Administration Programme in an effort to eliminate diseases such as bilharzia and intestinal infections.

The targeted areas are 57 of the 63 national districts, Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and various towns and cities where over 4,7 million children between the ages of one and 15 will be inoculated. Our correspondence Mavis Gama gives us more.

The two diseases are said to be the most prevalent of the eight neglected tropical diseases in Zimbabwe which include leprosy, blinding trachoma, elephantiasis, sleeping sickness, plague, rabies and anthrax.

Health experts say chronic infections and complications associated with bilharzia and intestinal worms have contributed to poverty in some of the communities through impairing cognitive performance in children and reducing the work capacity for adults.

Government, therefore, says the major objective of the National Mass Drug Administration Programme is to eliminate bilharzia and intestinal worms in all affected communities.

The week-long programme will be officially launched next Monday at Tsungubvi Primary School in Mazowe District, Mashonaland Central province. It will run up to November 2nd.

Health and Child Care Deputy Minister, Paul Chimedza, told a press conference in Harare today that bilharzia and intestinal worms have been neglected for a long time in Zimbabwe due to various reasons, including lack of funding.

Speaking at the same press briefing, Dr. Lincoln Charimari, who was standing in for the World Health Organisation’s representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. David Okello, emphasized the importance of the total elimination of the two diseases.

Chido Chitsamba of World Vision International said it important to assist in ensuring that the programme is a big success.

Government says UNICEF helped in procuring 8,2 million and 5,1 million tablets of Praziquantel and Albendazole - enough to reach over 4,7 million children in 63 rural districts, Harare and Bulawayo.

The World Health Organization availed Praziquantel tablets totaling 3,5 million while World Vision International and World Education/Bantwana provided some medicine and food to be consumed before the inoculations.

Government has also revealed that the implementation of the Mass Drug Programme, which runs from 2012 to 2016 is informed by scientific studies on these diseases and forms a critical component of the country’s Multi Year Plan of Action.