Boost for Covid-19, immunisation strategies

Sindiso Mhlophe

THE government has received a major boost in its fight against the lethal coronavirus (Covid-19) following donations of over 134 oxygen concentrators by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the Daily News reports.

Unicef further availed 968 solar-driven refrigerators in support of Zimbabwe’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation to strengthen coverage and equity of immunisation across the country.
Speaking during the official handover ceremony held in Harare yesterday, Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro said the donation of oxygen concentrators came at an opportune time when the country’s locally contracted cases were rapidly increasing.
On Wednesday, the Health ministry recorded 98 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 885 confirmed cases, 206 recoveries and nine deaths. Of the 98 new cases, 47 were local transmissions.
“This equipment will increase the capacity of hospitals to treat moderate to severe Covid-19 patients. The arrival of these 134 oxygen concentrators will translate into an increase in the number of beds available for treatment of this category of Covid-19 patients from current 45 beds to 179, bringing this close to 80 percent of the required beds for this category in the country.
“In the past, we had to refill the oxygen tanks elsewhere and was very inconvenient as it meant that patients could go for a long time without oxygen,” Mangwiro said.
He urged the public to continue adhering to lockdown regulations to complement government’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“We need to continue educating the public on the virus because it seems like people are taking a back seat thinking that the fight has been won. It hasn’t,” he said.
Mangwiro further said that the 968 solar-driven refrigerators were a very significant investment which was expected to improve the quality and capacity of the country’s cold chain under the Zimbabwe Expanded Programme on Immunisation.
“The 968 refrigerators we are receiving today are powered by solar energy and are Solar Direct Drive (SDD). This new technology will reduce operational costs related to electricity and LP gas consumption.
“It eliminates challenges posed by frequent and prolonged power outages. This means our health centres are now assured of reliable cold chain equipment in line with our focus,” Mangwiro said.
He added that after the deployment of the additional refrigerators, the country still has a deficit of around 450 medical centres which need the same intervention.
Speaking at the same event, Unicef deputy country representative Amina Mohamed said due to the lockdown measures, the country’s health centres were recording few mothers coming with their babies for immunisation.
“It is worrying that we are seeing a decline in immunisation figures due to the national lockdown. Through this donation today, we are saying that other health activities must not be abandoned as a result of Covid-19. We would like to appeal to mothers to start moving around and get children immunised to avoid diseases that can easily be prevented,” Mohamed said.
Unicef, through United Kingdom (UK) aid recently availed 65 ultra sound scanners to district hospitals across the country in efforts to improve antenatal care (ANC) and reduce maternal and neonatal mortality.
“The availability of ultrasound machines, comprehensive ANC care enables healthcare practitioners to detect complications and take appropriate action early when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. This in turn reduces maternal and neonatal mortality rates as appropriate action is taken before the situation gets out of hand or becomes uncontrollable.
“In the context of Covid-19, there has been a reduction in the number of pregnant women booking for ANC. With the availability of ultrasound scanners, comprehensive ANC care can be provided encouraging more pregnant women to book and come for follow up ANC services,” Mohamed said.

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