THE Japanese government has announced an emergency grant of US$1.18 million (K24 million) through UNICEF to support the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Zambia.
The funding will support work to improve the cold chain infrastructure in Zambia through new equipment, support to transport, and training for healthcare workers.
Cold chain capabilities are essential to transport and store vaccines, which need to remain at cool temperatures to remain effective.
“This generous support from the people of Japan will go a long way to strengthening our health system in Zambia and ensure these vaccines are well kept right up to the points of vaccination,” said Dr Kennedy Malama, the permanent secretary-technical services at the Ministry of Health. “The legacy of this investment will be making a difference long after the pandemic has been brought to an end in the true spirit of resilience creation in our health care system.”
According to a statement, the partnership would boost Zambia’s health system capacity as the country rolls out the most rapid vaccination programme in its history, with the aim of providing COVID-19 vaccines to all the adult population above 18 years, contributing to saving lives, livelihoods and the economy.
It stated that the funding would strengthen the existing health system, benefiting both the COVID-19 vaccination campaign rollout, and the regular Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).
It stated that ensuring equitable access and swift distribution of vaccines was a common challenge for the international community as it works towards the goal of containing COVID-19 across the globe.
It stated that to contribute in achieving this goal, the Japanese government had contributed $200 million to the global COVAX Facility, an international mechanism led by Gavi, the Coalition on Epidemic Preparedness and Response, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to ensure and accelerate equitable access to vaccines across the developing world.
“Japan’s support to Zambia through COVAX Facility and UNICEF reinforces our commitment to strengthen Zambia’s capability to cope with COVID-19 and upgrade its healthcare system at large,” said Japanese Ambassador to Zambia Mizuuchi Ryuta.
“Together with our government’s project on the provision of medical equipment to frontline hospitals and our technical assistance through Japanese medical experts both on site and virtually, this assistance will augment Zambia’s efforts to secure a sustainable vaccination programme.”
UNICEF representative in Zambia Noala Skinner said the support that Japan had offered Zambia comes at a crucial time as the country rolls out the COVID-19 vaccines to safeguard healthcare workers and other key personnel.
“This is a team effort, and the campaign depends on not just delivering the vaccines but also ensuring that cold chain facilities permit safe storage and transport as they make their way to all areas of Zambia,” said Skinner.
Zambia launched its COVID-19 vaccination programme on April 14 2021 with the aim of eventually offering the vaccine to all adults in the country.