The Health Development Fund (HDF), a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism, has procured essential equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic and strengthen coverage and equity of immunization across the country.
The HDF, a fund established to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCH+A) and nutrition in Zimbabwe, is managed by UNICEF in coordination with UNFPA.
The latest intervention saw the HDF with funding from the United Kingdom's (DFID), European Union (EU) Sida-Sweden, Irish Aid and the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), procure 198 Oxygen Concentrators for the fight against COVID-19 and 968 Solar Driven Refrigerators to strengthen coverage and equity of immunization across the country.
Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC), Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said the Oxygen Concentrators will assist in the ongoing operationalization of the National COVID-19 Response Plan which comprises 8 pillars, one of them is Case Management.
The Case Management pillar aims to preserve overall public health and continuity of essential health services.
Substantial quantities of oxygen concentrators are required to manage care and save lives especially at this time when the risk of a rise in COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe has increased, resulting in a larger number of patients requiring hospitalisation.
"The arrival of these 134 Oxygen Concentrators will translate into an increase in High Dependency Unit (HDU) bed capacity from the current 45 beds to 179, bringing this close to 80% of the required HDU bed capacity in the country," said Dr Mangwiro.
Cate Turton, DFID Zimbabwe Country Director said the interventions will have a significant impact on the national COVID 19 response plan and contribute in reduction of neonatal mortality in Zimbabwe.
Oxygen Concentrators will also strengthen health service delivery capacity post-COVID-19 as they are an essential piece of equipment in new-born resuscitation.
"The Health Development Fund donors (UK, EU, Sweden, Irish Aid and Gavi) through UNICEF and working with the government, supported an early preparedness and response plan to COVID-19 and will continue to support priority and effective interventions that are needed for Zimbabwe based on local and global evidence.
"We believe this life-saving equipment will help to make the greatest impact to save lives of the poorest and most vulnerable," said Turton.
Meanwhile, the Solar Direct Driven Refrigerators are in line with HDF partner- GAVI's Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform that supports continued efforts to keep the cold chain running in all districts to ensure effective vaccination management.
The refrigerators are a green solution for Primary Health Care level facilities which are not on the electricity grid or have sporadic electricity and will also offset the rising electricity costs, regular electricity faults, and subsequent fuel costs for standby generators.
"Vaccines need to be stored at a constant, cool temperature to be effective," said Tito Rwamushaija, Gavi Senior Country Manager for Zimbabwe.
"These new advanced refrigerators will be used to store vaccines that protect Zimbabwe's children against killer diseases like measles, diphtheria and pneumonia, helping to ensure a healthy, prosperous future for both the children and for this great nation."
UNICEF Deputy Representative Amina Mohamed says immunization in Zimbabwe has been not been adequate and equitable even before the Coronavirus pandemic, which has now worsened the situation.
"Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and it's restrictions in the movement for mothers and their babies, immunization coverage in Zimbabwe has not been equitable across the country with inequities across geographic areas, urban vs rural, and wealth quintiles,"
"These Solar Direct Driven Refrigerators will see the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) reaching the last mile," said Mohamed.
The initiative will also train 63 cold chain technicians from 9 Provinces on the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in cold chain management, temperature monitoring devices, maintenance of the refrigerators, generator maintenance, gas management and cold chain record keeping.