27 January 2010

Zimbabwe: Legal Framework On Immunisation Urged

Harare — THE United Nations Children's Fund has called for the establishment of a legal framework to protect children from preventable diseases such as measles.

This follows the death of 54 children in Zimbabwe from measles in recent months.

Speaking at the signing ceremony of a US$1,43 million grant from the Japanese Embassy in Harare yesterday, Unicef country representative Dr Peter Salama said the current measles outbreak was clear testimony that vaccines alone were not enough.

"There is need for effective community and social mobilisation.

"Dialogue should be sustained with various religious objectors and indeed there is need for a legal and constitutional framework to protect children from dying from easily preventable diseases such as measles," Dr Salama said.

Some members of apostolic sects have declined to get their children immunised citing religious beliefs.

Dr Salama said Zimbabwe's immunisation coverage was as low as 49 percent among children aged between 12 and 23 months.

"So what I am reminding all the partners on the table is that there are still immense challenges to ensure child survival and the enormity of these challenges before us should not be underestimated. Vaccines are indeed just the beginning," he said.

Expanded Programme on Immunisation national co-ordinator Mrs Mary Kamupota reiterated the need for a legal framework to protect children from preventable diseases.

Mrs Kamupota said measles had so far affected 22 out of Zimbabwe's 63 districts.

"Although routine immunisation needs to be strengthened, regulations that make us reach to every child in all districts need to be put in place so that children will not continue dying from preventable diseases," she said.

Last week, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr Douglas Mombeshora said Government was considering invoking provisions of the law.

The Public Health Act that give the minister power to enforce health measures that protect children.

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