The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has donated $5.6 million dollars to help Zimbabwe fight a widening measles outbreaks that has claimed nearly 400 lives since late last year.
The funds will enable health authorities to protect about five million children through an emergency vaccination program being launched by the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and other partners. The total cost of the crash vaccination program has been estimated at $8 million.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said Thursday that the UN funds will help control the preventable disease that has killed more than 380 children with some 6,200 cases across 57 of Zimbabwe’s 62 districts.
Measles initially spread among members of Apostolic Faith sects that oppose conventional medical treatment including immunization. It has continued to spread despite the vaccination of some 148,000 children last September.
UNICEF spokeswoman Tsitsi Singizi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the funds will help the partners immunize 95 percent of Zimbabwean children between the ages of six months and 14 years of age over 10 days.
Dr. Ngonidzashe Madidi of the United Bulawayo Hospitals said that while the UN funding is welcome, donors should consider supporting rural health infrastructure to help communities cut off from the rest of the country.