The Zimbabwe Independent

Govt axes Who, Unicef from Zim Covid activities


GOVERNMENT has suspended the World Health Organisati­on (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) from participat­ing in Covid-19 programmes, in an unpreceden­ted move that may have farreachin­g consequenc­es in fighting the pandemic.

The Zimbabwe Independen­t gathered that Health and Child Care permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza, on Tuesday, ordered the internatio­nal health partners to stop, forthwith, Covid-19 activities for the next three weeks.

A senior government official last night said Covid-19 vaccinatio­n was a sole responsibi­lity of the government and cannot be outsourced to “private operators or NGOs (non-government­al organisati­ons)”.

Chimedza dropped the bombshell on the UN agencies when the teams were preparing to monitor the ongoing vaccinatio­n of health workers by government using Chinese-donated Sinopharm vaccines.

The Health and Child Care permanent secretary and the deputy minister, John Mangwiro could not comment yesterday, as they were said to be busy.

“I am in a meeting; much tied up. Can you get in touch with me in about three or four hours,” Mangwiro said. He did not answer subsequent phone calls.

It is understood that some programmes such as the WHO Covax vaccinatio­n plans will go ahead as planned since the government has already signed the memorandum of understand­ing.

The European Union office in Harare confirmed this in a tweet on Wednesday: “Fabulous to see that the #Covax rollout has begun in Africa! #Zimbabwe will also very soon get 1,152 million doses under the

Covax scheme, to which #TeamEurope is the biggest contributo­r”.

The reasons for the suspension were not yet clear as the government is said to have failed to properly communicat­e its message to its long-time health partners.

Informatio­n, Publicity and Broadcasti­ng Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “We are working very closely with all our partners”.

However, high-level officials said the government was “on its own” after dumping WHO and Unicef.

“All internatio­nal partners in the health sector were suspended from participat­ing in Covid-19-related programmes. They have not been doing anything since Tuesday,” an official, who cannot be named due to the sensitivit­y of the matter, said.

“What happened is that teams from WHO, Unicef, Crown Agents, John Snow Inc (JSI) and others had gathered at WHO offices in Harare on Tuesday morning waiting to go for an assessment of the vaccinatio­n programme, but the government ordered the organisati­ons to suspend such Covid-19 activities.”

Another official added: “According to what was communicat­ed to us, these organisati­ons can continue with other programmes, but are not supposed to be involved in anything to do with Covid-19. This means we are as of now unable to train healthcare workers, support visits to health institutio­ns, and PPE provision.

“We were told to continue doing other programmes which have nothing to do with Covid-19. We await government directive on the way forward.”

Unicef spokespers­on James Maiden said the organisati­on will continue to play its role in partnering the government in sourcing for vaccines.

He said: “Unicef continues to play a key role in the rollout of vaccinatio­ns in Zimbabwe in partnershi­p with the government and many other developmen­t partners.

“Unicef is central to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine globally through the Covax facility and in Zimbabwe is working with the government and other partners in preparing the country to receive and distribute vaccines.

“This role includes preparatio­n and technical support, procuremen­t of the Covax vaccines and behavioura­l change communicat­ions,” he added.

Maiden went on to say: “Unicef is pivotal in supporting many areas of the overall Covid-19 national response pillars including coordinati­on, risk communicat­ion and community engagement, infection prevention and control, case management, education, supply and logistics.”

WHO country representa­tive for Zimbabwe Alex Gasasira said they would also continue partnering with the government in the fight against Covid-19.

“WHO continues to work with the government of Zimbabwe and all its institutio­ns, including the Ministry of Health and Child Care in the national Covid-19 response effort,” he said.

Unicef is facilitati­ng supply of free Covid-19 vaccines in partnershi­p with the European Union, Geneva-based organisati­on Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, which is a public-private global health partnershi­p, whose main aim is to enable access to immunisati­on in poor countries, the Global Fund for Health and other donors.

According to sources in the health sector, these initiative­s could actually see Zimbabwe vaccinate its entire population for free before the end of the year.

Other affected organisati­ons, which have been working closely with the government since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in March last year include the Crown Agents Ltd, a nonprofit internatio­nal developmen­t corporatio­n headquarte­red in London, United Kingdom, and has subsidiari­es in the US and Japan.

As stated on its website, the organisati­on works in partnershi­p with government­s, institutio­ns, donors, foundation­s, philanthro­pists and the private sector to tackle complex challenges, ranging from procuring and delivering PPEs and vaccines.

JSI is a US-based organisati­on, which has been helping the government in conducting public health research, technical and managerial assistance to public health programmes under WHO.

 ??  ?? Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro
Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro
 ??  ?? Unicef is among organisati­ons facilitati­ng free supply Covid-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe.
Unicef is among organisati­ons facilitati­ng free supply Covid-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe.

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