Zimbabwe allotted $5.6 million in UN emergency funds to fight measles epidemic

A child being vaccinated against measles

5 May 2010 – Some 5 million children in Zimbabwe will receive urgently needed protection from a growing spread of measles thanks to $5.6 million from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Despite an initial vaccination of more than 148,000 children in 23 districts since the beginning of the outbreak in September, the disease has been on the rise with more than 6,200 cumulative cases, including 384 deaths, reported in 57 of the 62 districts across the impoverished southern African country.

“The CERF contribution will allow for urgent programmes to immunize children against this deadly disease,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said today. “Halting the spread of measles now should avert a number of preventable deaths.”

In conjunction with Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Welfare Ministry, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN World Health Organization (WHO) plan to immunize 95 per cent of children between the ages of six months and 14 years during a 10-day campaign. The two UN agencies will provide further technical assistance in planning, coordinating, implementing and monitoring the measles outbreak response.

Some $3.5 million in CERF funding will allow UNICEF to provide logistical support to the nationwide campaign, including ensuring that all measles vaccines, and the equipment to keep them cold, are delivered quickly to all 62 districts. CERF funds will also help UNICEF to produce and distribute educational materials ahead of the campaign, to inform the population.

WHO will use $2.1 million to support critical micro-planning activities and refresher training of some 14,000 people including health workers needed to carry out a campaign of this scale.

In March the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that aid agencies in Zimbabwe were appealing to donors to support a $378 million appeal launched in December to support humanitarian and early recovery efforts in a country has been plagued by widespread humanitarian suffering in recent years, driven in part by long-running political strife.

At the time the appeal was launched, some 6 million people lacked access to safe water and sanitation due to the erosion of basic services, while livelihoods were threatened by the prolonged economic downturn.

CERF was established in 2006 to make funding for humanitarian emergencies faster and more equitable. Since then, more than 115 Member States and several private sector donors have contributed $1.9 billion to the Fund, which is managed by OCHA. Humanitarian agencies in Zimbabwe have received $57.3 million since 2006.

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