Major boost for rural facilities’ immunisation programme

2023-06-15 11:53:57


By Gwen Mugauri

Government's quest to achieve universal health coverage is making strides following the strengthening of the country's Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in rural health facilities through the Solar for Health Initiative - at a time when the safety of vaccines is threatened by power outages.

Initiated in 2017, Solar for Health is a Ministry of Health and Child Care led project supported by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) Global Fund, which aims to provide sustainable, clean, efficient solar energy and power backup solutions to improve healthcare services in rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe.

Speaking to Zimpapers Radio News during a Ministry of Health and Child Care solar for health media tour supported by UNDP Global fund in Masvingo and Bulawayo recently, Chivi District Medical Officer Dr. Onward Tendaupenyu said the initiative enhanced the quality of child health services at Chivi District Hospital. 

“The key result area for our family and child health department is immunization at birth, six weeks, 10 weeks, 18 months, and so on. So those vaccines are supposed to be kept at a cold chain temperature requirement of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. So if a mother comes for routine immunisation and the fridge has not been cold enough due to power cuts, that vaccine is not going to work.

“But now because of the solar for health installations, if the electricity is off we do not panic because we know there is backup and our medicines are kept at their optimum temperatures. We now give medicines that we know are effective,” said Dr Tendaupenyu.

Matebeleland South Provincial Medical Director Dr Felix Muza said the solar power backup prevented unnecessary fluctuations of the cold chain temperatures.

“Our children need routine immunisation services at any particular time from our health facilities and temperature fluctuations were a major challenge. But now, with the availability of backup power, we are able to maintain our vaccines in the recommended temperatures even at the lowest levels of our clinics that may be far away from the district hubs. So, this is one of the benefits we have realised from this project,” he said.

Umzingwane District Medical Officer Dr Marambire Sinaravo confirmed that Esigodini District Hospital which serves a catchment area of at least 78 thousand people, now enjoyed 90 percent of essential drugs availability including life-saving vaccines. 

Meanwhile, Natpharm Masvingo branch manager Linda Chamboko, expressed gratitude for this game-changing initiative saying the solar installations will go a long way in preserving the quality of medicines and assist in reducing electricity bills. 

The Zimbabwe Expanded Programme on Immunization is an integral part of the country's Primary Health Care system aimed at ensuring immunization of all vulnerable age groups by preventively reaching out to them before they contract infectious diseases such as polio, tetanus and measles among others.