WOMEN seeking immunisation services for their children are reportedly being turned away at clinics in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, exposing them to the risk of contracting childhood diseases.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
The claims were made by women’s rights lobby group, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe), citing Phakama Clinic in the Matabeleland South capital as an example.
According to Walpe, nurses were citing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions as an excuse to stay immunisation services that are necessary for child health and prevention against diseases.
“At Phakama Clinic, nurses are turning back women with children who want to be immunised telling them to come back after the COVID-19 lockdown. Immunisation is strongly recommended as it can prevent many serious infections,” Walpe noted.
The lockdown stay-at-home restrictions remain in place, although President Emmerson Mnangagwa partially lifted some of them to allow business and commerce to resume operations on Monday.
Matabeleland South provincial medical director Ruth Chikorodze urged the victims to report the nurses to the Health ministry, saying primary healthcare services such as immunisation were not suspended as a result of the lockdown.
“That is not the policy. Immunisation services have continued. Immunisation services are more of primary healthcare and are continuing at the clinics,” Chikorodze said in a telephone interview yesterday.
“The services are available. Those that have been turned away can report these incidents as they happen so that they can be addressed,” Chikorodze added.
“There might be some bad apples in our system because you cannot vouch for everybody, but if there are complaints, people must quickly report such incidents and they will be rectified.”
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), immunisation saves two to three million lives each year.
Unicef says vaccinations play a central role in ending preventable child deaths, preventing estimated 23,2 million deaths between 2000 and 2018.
In 2019, Unicef reached almost half of the world’s children with life-saving vaccines.
Since 2000, 2,5 billion children were vaccinated, and the number of children paralysed by polio has fallen by more than 99%, from 350 000 to fewer than 200 cases at the end of 2019, a report by Unicef shows.