Zimbabwe launches a life-saving vaccine and a new child health card

In June 2012, Zimbabwe took an important step toward improved health for the nation’s children, when the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) officially launched a new life-saving vaccine (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 13, or PCV 13) and issued revised child health cards. The timing could not have been better, as 2010/2011 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey indicated an increasing under-five child mortality rate of 84 per 1,000 live births, or one in every 12 children dying before their fifth birthday, predominantly from preventable causes.

JSI/WEI Photo Library Photo
Children show off their new health cards at the PCV/CHC launch event.
The introduction of this vaccine is part of a comprehensive national approach to prevention, protection, and early treatment of childhood pneumonia. Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in children under five worldwide, and PCV 13 protects children against some pneumonias and meningitis. The updated child health card—which is used throughout Zimbabwe by health workers and caregivers to monitor children’s growth and other key health milestones—is more integrated than previous versions. In addition to including Zimbabwe’s new immunization schedule, the cards contains updated information on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, effective treatment of diarrhea, and new growth charts.

The Maternal and Child Health Immunization Project (MCHIP) has played a major role in the introduction of PCV 13 in Zimbabwe, providing significant technical and financial support to the MOHCW for the new vaccine introduction efforts. MCHIP also helped review, revise, and field test the new child health card, and contributed to the IYCF, diarrhea management, growth monitoring, and new vaccination schedule-related portions of the card.

At the launch, JSI’s County Director for MCHIP, Professor Rose Kambarami, reiterated USAID/MCHIP’s commitment to helping the MOHCW improve the health of Zimbabwe’s women, children, and families. She advocated for continued support to strengthen the nation’s routine immunization system, and for the expedited introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, which can reduce diarrhea-related deaths in children. Finally, Prof. Kambarami called for continued and stronger partnerships among all maternal, newborn, and child health stakeholders, concluding, “It is through such partnerships that we can make a difference in women’s and children’s lives.”