Harare, Zimbabwe - The European Commission (EC) has given Zimbabwe € 1 million (about US$1.2 million) to tackle the measles epidemic.
“Zimbabwe is facing a large-scale outbreak of measles which began in September 2009. Since the beginning of March, the epidemic, together with the mortality rate - has spiralled with cases of the disease being reported in 45 of the country's 62 districts,” European Commission said.
“In light of this worrying epidemic, and in order to prevent further outbreaks, a massive emergency vaccination campaign is being launched. This campaign, funded by the Commission, will enable the vaccination of all Zimbabwean children between 6 months and 15 years of age.”
The measles epidemic broke out in September last year and has so far claimed 384 lives. Despite an initial vaccination of more than 148,000 children in 23 districts since the beginning of the outbreak, the disease has been on the rise with more than 6 200 cumulative cases reported in 57 of the 62 districts across the country.
Measles weakens the immune system, and can lead to the development of secondary illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, blindness, and encephalitis.
Government plans to make immunisation mandatory following resistance from members of the Vapostori sect due to religious beliefs.
The release of the funds follows another gesture by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which last week announced the release of US$5.6 million to fight the spread of measles. The fund is expected to benefit about five million children in Zimbabwe.