Zim contains measles outbreak . . . Achieves 95pc vaccination Manicaland Provincial Medical Director Dr Munyaradzi Mukuzunga last week said the success of the identification, management and control of the outbreak could be attributed to community health workers and the engagement with communities.

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke recently in Mutare

Following the outbreak of measles in Manicaland early this year, the Government has achieved 95 percent success in the vaccination of children in the hotspots districts, successfully managing the outbreak.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care launched a nationwide vaccination campaign as the outbreak spread outside the borders of the province in April.

As a result, a total of 444 413 children below the age of 15 were vaccinated in Mutasa, Buhera, Chimanimani, Mutare and Nyanga districts, which were the most severely affected.  

This accounted for 95 percent of the targeted population.

For Chipinge, Mutare City and Makoni districts, 118 230 children under the age of five were vaccinated, representing 83,1 percent of the targeted number.

The measles outbreak was initially detected in Mutasa District in March this year before spreading across the country where it affected thousands of children below the age of five.

At least 3 291 suspected and confirmed cases of measles were reported in the province, while 349 children succumbed to the disease.

Owing to the targeted interventions to arrest the outbreak, Manicaland has not recorded a new case of measles since October.

Manicaland Provincial Medical Director Dr Munyaradzi Mukuzunga last week said the success of the identification, management and control of the outbreak could be attributed to community health workers and the engagement with communities.

“Thanks to the work done by the community health workers and the community surveillance system, the first cases that were suspected and later on confirmed were actually picked up by village health workers. This was an indication of how well the Community Health Strategy implementation in the province is working,” he said.

He said immediately after the first few cases, the province had mobilised the community structures through the traditional leaders, health centre committees, village health workers as well as the Ministry of Health to agree on how the vaccination exercise would be approached.

The most affected were communities where apostolic faith sects do not believe in vaccinating their children.

Dr Mukuzunga said a collaborative effort ensured success in mobilising teams and during the vaccination exercise in Mutasa.

“At the beginning there were a lot of deaths but after that we were able to work with the communities and get people vaccinated and control the outbreak. The traditional and religious leadership was instrumental in making sure that we have access to people and the health sector was flexible in terms of actually ensuring differential service delivery. 

“Some people preferred to visit clinics early before it opened while others wanted to come after hours so we made sure we opened early and closed late for these. 

“We also had others who wanted us to bring teams to the communities and we agreed with them on the areas and time and we made ourselves available. It was a multi sectoral approach which helped us to be able to respond to the outbreak,” he said.

The same approach was used in Buhera, Mutare, Chimanimani and Nyanga districts, which were also affected severely.

Manicaland has in the past experienced similar outbreaks of measles and the Government has had continuous engagements with the communities to ensure no children die from the vaccine-preventable disease.

Dr Mukuzunga said the existing communication channels within these communities had come in handy in the identification and management of the outbreak.

“One of the most important things we have learnt over the years is to listen to them (communities) and emphasise on the areas that we can agree on and see how best we can navigate and this has been working for us. 

“What is important is how you engage, how you express yourself, who you engage and agreeing to disagree. When you emphasise the areas you do agree, you can have that leverage rather than trying to fight each other. The whole purpose is to save communities which is a shared goal with all the different people in the community,” he added.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory tract viral infection commonly found in children and is spread through sneezing, coughing and contact. Symptoms start with a cough, fever followed by a rash on the skin.

The risk of developing severe measles or dying from complications of measles is high in unvaccinated children.

The country has for years been offering the measles vaccine to children at nine months as part of the routine immunisation schedule. However, some children do not receive the vaccine owing to various challenges, chief among them religious beliefs which prohibit vaccination.

Zimbabwe experienced its worst outbreak of measles in 2010 which resulted in an estimated 10 000 confirmed cases and over 500 deaths.

Globally, measles cases have been increasing and the WHO and Unicef earlier this year warned of the worrying rise in cases which could trigger larger outbreaks.

You Might Also Like


Take our Survey

We value your opinion! Take a moment to complete our survey