UNICEF calls for immediate lifting of NGO ban

Child Health Days reach Zimbabwe's children and mothers at a critical time
UNICEF calls for the immediate lifting of the NGO ban

HARARE, 6 August 2008- Zimbabwe's national biannual Child Health Days kicked
off on Monday, with the aims of providing the country's two million children
(under-five) with essential Vitamin A supplementation and  catch-up
immunization,  and of providing communities with life-saving information on
nutrition and breastfeeding practices.<


 “The nationwide campaigns are important life-saving, low-cost and
high-impact support towards reducing child illnesses and deaths in
 Zimbabwe,” said UNICEF’s Acting Country Representative in Zimbabwe, Roeland
Monasch. “The days are an essential boost to a health system under great
stress and children made vulnerable by declining social services.”

The Child Health Days (CHDs) are led by the Ministry of Health and Child
Welfare in partnership with UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and
Helen Keller International. Past child health drives have demonstrated that
this campaign method is highly successful. During the campaigns, UNICEF
adequately funds social mobilization and provides health staff and
volunteers with allowances and additional transport is provided for outreach
activities.

The week-long US$ 1million campaign is supported by essential funding from
the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Canada’s
International Development Agency (CIDA) and UNICEF’s National Committee of
the Netherlands.

During the campaign health workers and volunteers conduct outreach
activities to schools, community centres and mobile clinics across the
country. Children, even those in hard to reach areas, are immunised against
tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B,
haemophilus influenza and polio.

UNICEF’s Regional Director Per Engebak, who was in Zimbabwe last week,
reaffirmed that Child Health Days are pivotal for the well-being of
Zimbabwean children. The agency, however, expressed serious concerns about
the impact on children of the current ban prohibiting non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) from operating in communities. The ban, imposed on the
4th of June, has now been in effect for over two months.

“We applaud and are committed to efforts such as the Child Health Campaign,
but we cannot forget that a growing number of children are suffering daily
because of the NGO ban,” said Mr. Engebak. “Every day that such an important
lifeline of humanitarian aid for children remains cut off, puts the children
of this country at ever greater risk.”

Recent child health campaigns have boosted vitamin A coverage from less than
10 per cent in 2005 to over 80 per cent today. Overall immunization
coverage, which had dropped by almost 50 per cent, has once again reached 70
per cent. The campaign in November 2007 reached 81per cent of the country’s
children with polio vaccination and 80 per cent with Vitamin A
supplementation.

The child health days are part of the country’s ongoing efforts to eliminate
vaccine preventable diseases, maintain high vitamin A coverage and improve
child survival across the country.

UNICEF continues to provide support to the Zimbabwe Expanded programme on
Immunisation (ZEPI) in the procurement of vaccines for immunisation, cold
chain equipment for vaccine storage and technical support to the health
workers.

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