By Gabriel-Eddie Njoroge

Some 487,825 people, from the two districts in Zimbabwe most affected by cyclone Idai, beginning Tuesday, were the main focus of a campaign targeting them for oral cholera vaccine (OCV).

All residents of Chimanimani and Chipinge aged 12 months and older will receive the vaccine to protect them against cholera, during the campaign.

The Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care is launching the campaign , despite there being no reported cases of cholera in the cyclone-affected areas in the country, with support from UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO), as a proactive and preventative measure.

The Vaccine Alliance, funded by Gavi, will administer 975,000 OCV doses in two rounds for immunity where the second dose will be administered two weeks after the first.

“We are on high alert to detect cholera in the cyclone Idai affected areas, and to further protect the people, we have decided to introduce the oral cholera vaccine as a preventive measure in the affected areas while at the same time promoting good hygiene,” said Dr. Obadiah Moyo, Minister of Health and Child Care.

Cyclone Idai, which stormed into Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, caused flooding that destroyed the water distribution systems in targeted districts; in addition to the storm also severely damaging pumping stations and boreholes in areas where sanitization coverage was already poor.

Children and families have been put at risk of waterborne and foodborne diseases including cholera due to the damage and flooding.

“The campaign is a preventive move to reduce the risk of a cholera outbreak, and UNICEF has been working with civil society partners and communities to raise public awareness in advance of the campaign,” said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Laylee Moshiri.

“This massive campaign is one of many examples where we join hands with partners to help the government strengthen the resilience of communities in emergency situations by working to prevent additional emergencies from occurring,” said Dr. Alex Ntale Gasasira, WHO Representative for Zimbabwe.

The stockpile of the vaccine is managed by the International Coordinating Group which includes WHO, UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Médecins Sans Frontières while Gavi is supporting the operational costs of the campaign. Contact:  tjirwin@unicef.org, rupfutsem@who.int

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