ZIMBABWE – The Republic of Zimbabwe has linked up with Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners to implement polio surveillance strengthening activities in the wake of wild-polio outbreak in neighboring countries.

Health authorities are working closely with GPEI partners including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to step up surveillance to detect polio cases while preparing for vaccination campaigns.

WHO announced on its site that critical activities to strengthen the polio surveillance include training of health workers at all health institutions and sensitization of clinicians at central, provincial, district, mission and major private hospitals.

Community sensitization meetings with Village Health Workers (VHW) and Health Center Committees (HCC) while routine immunization and surveillance review and planning meetings with provinces and districts are also being conducted,” the organization said.

According to the health agency, Zimbabwe is currently using the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance system to detect any potential polio outbreaks following reports of wild polio virus outbreak in selected neighboring countries namely Malawi and Mozambique.

In addition, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) continues to organize integrated awareness campaigns at community level as well as through regular engagements with the media.

WHO epidemiologists are supporting MoHCC technical staff to undertake detailed Polio risk analysis, prepare surveillance improvement plans, undertake training of health workers at all levels of health system and strengthen specimen collection and transportation.

WHO staff working with MoHCC staff and partners are supporting the strengthening of integrated supportive supervision activities. These efforts have resulted in improvement in the AFP surveillance performance,” the global public health organization further outlined.

The agency disclosed that intensified active case search focusing on high priority sites such as health institutions at all levels is being done while integrated supportive supervision targeting low performing districts and health facilities is being prioritized.

Dr Maxwell Rupfutse, WHO National Professional Officer for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) lauded the national authorities for intensifying polio eradication activities in response to the polio outbreak in the Southern Africa sub-region

We are grateful to the frontline health workers, volunteers, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations as well as technical and financial partners for supporting efforts to improve polio surveillance in Zimbabwe,” he stated.

The World Health Organization further said that more work still needs to be done to improve the quality of AFP specimens so that they reach the laboratory in good condition.

The agency pointed out there is also need to improve routine immunization coverage rates in tandem with the ongoing efforts to prepare for high quality polio vaccination campaign.

Surveillance exercises help us unearth things that we have to adjust not only focusing on the planned polio campaign but as we provide routine immunization services beyond the campaign,” Matron Lorraine Mukwemu Harare City Acting Chief Nursing Officer said.

She further said that health authorities get to appreciate the gaps and challenges Zimbabwean clinics face in providing vaccination services to communities surrounding them and provide necessary support to the clinics.

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