A health worker of the Congolese Ministry of Health is preparing a syringe with a measles vaccine dose. (Supplied by Bhekisisa, Samuel Sieber, MSF)
- Seventy-two cases of measles were reported in an outbreak that has killed 14 children in Zimbabwe.
- Between January and March this year, the WHO recorded about 17 500 cases in Africa.
- The WHO conducts routine vaccination campaigns to counter vaccine-preventable diseases.
A measles outbreak in Zimbabwe has resulted in the death of 14 children in Manicaland, at a time when about 17 500 cases have been confirmed in Africa so far this year.
In a statement, Zimbabwe’s health ministry said 72 cases had been recorded.
“To date, a total of 72 cases and 14 deaths have been reported. Of the reported cases, only nine had been vaccinated, while the remainder had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown,” said the ministry.
With a low vaccination rate and, in some cases, no record keeping, the government has since resolved to start a mass vaccination campaign in areas where the outbreak was recorded.
“To control this outbreak, the ministry has started a mass vaccination campaign in Mutasa District, Manicaland Province, targeting the six months to 15 years, regardless of their vaccination status,” the ministry said.
The new cases recorded in Zimbabwe, with a mortality rate of 19.4%, are a shock to the country’s shambolic health sector – and the government has since called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) for assistance.
In Zimbabwe, measles, along with poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus and tuberculosis, are called the “six child killer diseases”.
Fighting measles in Africa
“Almost 17 500 cases of measles were recorded in the African region between January and March 2022, marking a 400% increase compared with the same period in 2021. Twenty African countries reported measles outbreaks in the first quarter of this year, eight more than that in the first three months of 2021,” the WHO said.
The sudden rise in measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases is largely blamed on disruptions by Covid-19, which resulted in huge strains on health system capacities in many African countries.
Two doses of the measles vaccine provided on schedule results in long-lasting protection against the potentially deadly disease, the WHO said, urging more African countries to scale up measles vaccination programmes.
“WHO and partners are supporting African countries to carry out catch-up routine vaccination campaigns,” the organisation said.
Last week, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, told journalists that vaccines were at the heart of successful public health response – and, as countries restore services, routine immunisation must be at the core of revived and resilient health systems.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
Tedros re-elected as head of World Health Organization – NewsDay
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) members re-elected Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as Director General by a strong majority for another five years, the president of the World Health Assembly said on Tuesday.
The vote by secret ballot, announced by Ahmed Robleh Abdilleh from Djibouti at a major annual meeting, was seen as a formality since Tedros was the only candidate running.
Ministers and delegates took turns to shake hands and hug Tedros, a former health minister from Ethiopia, who has steered the UN agency through a turbulent period dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The president had to use a gavel several times to interrupt the applause.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach tweeted on Tuesday: “Just re-elected as Director General of #WHO: @DrTedros. 155/160 votes, spectacular result. Congratulations, fully deserved. Germany recently overtook the United States as the UN health agency’s top donor. – REUTERS
Merck Foundation African First Ladies Summit 2022 to discuss patient care transformation, raising awareness on social and health issues in Africa – ANI News
Abuja [Nigeria]/ Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], May 24 (ANI/BusinessWire India): Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany conducted the 4th edition of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative- MFFLI – Summit 2022, held via a Videoconference, on 18th May 2022.
The Summit was hosted by Prof. Dr Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Chairman of both Executive Board of E.Merck KG & Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Senator, Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President of “More Than a Mother” Campaign.
First Ladies of 11 African countries actively participated by keynote speech containing impact report about their joint programs and long-term partnership with Merck Foundation through MFFLI, the prestigious platform established by Merck Foundation to discuss different programs and initiatives with their members of more than 20 African First Ladies, who are also Ambassadors of Merck Foundation “More than a Mother“.
During this year, MFFLI Summit 2022, 11 African First Ladies participated in alphabetical order with their keynote speeches, reports and call for action;
1. H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Republic of Botswana
2. H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Republic of Burundi
3. H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic
4. H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of the Congo
5. H. E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of Republic of The Gambia
6. H. E. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia
7. H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Republic of Malawi
8. H.E. BAZOUM HADIZA MABROUK, The First Lady of Republic of Niger
9. H.E. Dr AISHA MUHAMMADU BUHARI, The First Lady of Republic of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
10. H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Republic of Sierra Leone
11. H.E. Dr AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Republic of Zimbabwe
Prof. Dr Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp emphasized, “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of focusing on building and advancing healthcare capacity, especially training medical staff at all levels nationwide to be our first defense line. Merck Foundation has always believed in investing in building professional healthcare capacity, we will continue to do so to realize our vision – “Everyone in the world should lead a happy and fulfilling life”.
Senator, Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation expressed, “I am very pleased to host the 4th edition of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Virtual Summit, it is a great opportunity to interact with my dear sisters, the African First Ladies. I value our partnership and I am proud of each one of them for the continuous support and efforts they have put to implement our programs to build healthcare capacity and advocating for a wide range of social and health issues like Supporting Girl Education, Ending Child Marriage, Stooping GBV, Breaking Infertility Stigma, women empowerment, Diabetes Awareness, among other social and health issues affecting our beloved Africa.”
“I am proud to share that till today, Merck Foundation has provided more than 1300 scholarships of one-year diploma & fellowships and two-year master degree for healthcare providers from 45 countries in 32 critical and underserved medical specialties such as diabetes, endocrinology, oncology, reproductive and sexual care, respiratory care, acute and critical care, cardiovascular, pediatric emergency, gastroenterology, psychiatry, urology, dermatology, neonatal care, fertility care and embryology and more. Many of them are becoming the first specialists in their countries, such as in Liberia, Niger, Chad, The Gambia, Burundi, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, Guinea, Ethiopia, Congo, Nepal, Bangladesh and more. We are certainly making history together,” added Senator Rasha Kelej.
The MFFLI VC Summit 2022 aimed to share experiences, discuss challenges, define solutions to further strengthen healthcare capacity. The African First Ladies shared their experiences of working closely with Merck Foundation in their respective countries with a special focus on the programs to build healthcare capacity and raise awareness on sensitive social and health issues.
H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Republic of Botswana and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” said, “I am very happy to see that Merck Foundation is strongly committed to advancing healthcare in public sector across Africa, I strongly believe this will be a strong contribution to our social and economic development. Together we have provided more than 30 scholarships to local Doctors in Botswana in different underserved and critical specialties such as: Diabetes, Endocrinology, Dermatology, Gastroenterology, Oncology, Respiratory Medicines, Acute Medicines and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines. Moreover, I am very happy to share that Merck Foundation has provided 20 Sewing Machines to individuals and groups across Botswana to be able to generate monthly income. We also launched together with Merck Foundation, a Poster Contest to ‘Stop GBV’ initiative to contribute to our efforts to end GBV (Gender-based Violence) in Botswana.”
H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Republic of Burundi and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” emphasized, “I am very happy to join my dear sisters at the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit this year. We have a long-term partnership with Merck Foundation through which 47 scholarships have been provided to local doctors who will be the future healthcare experts of Burundi. This is a very high number in a very short time, I am proud of them, this is a historic transformation of patient care in Burundi which we will continue year after year together with Merck Foundation and our Ministries of Health, Education, Communication and Gender. It is a very successful multisectoral approach. Furthermore, we have established the first public IVF center in Burundi which is a great milestone to support infertile women and couples in their homeland for the first time in Burundi. Last but not least; 20 girls have been provided scholarships to continue their education on an annual basis.”
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” stated, “I am extremely happy with Merck Foundation’s strong values that focus on advancing the healthcare capacity in my country. 5 scholarships have been provided by Merck Foundation so far, out of these, 1 female doctor has completed the Oncology Fellowship program to be the first Gynaecology oncologist in CAR, who will be of great help for better women healthcare in my country. This is a huge achievement and we have made history here. More than 60 women, victims of infertility stigma have been supported by Merck Foundation through Empowering Berna. They are now empowered and respected by the communities- this makes me very proud. Also, we are in the process to provide school items and scholarship grants for girls to continue their education, and reach their potential “.
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” said, “I feel honoured to be a member of this prestigious platform along with my dear sisters. Our valuable partnership with Merck Foundation started in 2020 and in a very short time we have made considerable progress. Around 30 scholarships have been provided to our doctors so far in the fields of Oncology, Fertility, Embryology, and Diabetes. Through our partnership with Merck Foundation, we are looking forward to benefiting more of our doctors and nurses across the country, to be able to provide better care to our patients.”
H. E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of Republic of The Gambia and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” emphasized, “The Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit is indeed a coveted platform that gives us an opportunity to exchange ideas to advance our outreach programs. Our long-term partnership with Merck Foundation has helped re-shape the public healthcare sector in my country. So far, we have provided more than 30 scholarships to young Gambian doctors in many critical and underserved specialties. Out of which, 18 scholarships have been provided for Fertility Training and one year Post Graduate Diploma and two-year master degree in Sexual and Reproductive Medicine. This has contributed significantly to transforming women’s health in general and reproductive and fertility care specifically. In fact, we are making history by providing training to first specialists in many fields such as, Oncology, Respiratory, Fertility, Embryology, Reproductive Care, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Neonatal Care and more”.
H. E. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” stated, “I am very excited to be a member of ‘Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative’ and to be part of this Annual Summit as every year. Through Merck Foundation programs that focus on strengthening healthcare capacity, so far, we have provided 36 scholarships to our doctors in many critical and underserved specialties such as: Diabetes, Cardiovascular Preventive, endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive care, Endocrinology, Respiratory care and Acute & Intensive care, Oncology and Fertility Specialists and Embryology Training. We have made history by providing specialty training for the first Fertility, Embryologists, Oncologists and Diabetes Specialists in the country. I am very proud of this achievement. I would like to thank Merck Foundation for providing Sanitary Napkin Production Machine and raw materials for Liberia under the ‘Hygiene Management of School Girls’ and Merck Foundation’s ‘Educating Linda’ program. We will now be able to provide thousands of good quality Sanitary pads to our schoolgirls, ensuring good menstrual hygiene for them so they can continue their education and stop dropping from school.”
H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Republic of Malawi and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” said, “I am very happy to meet you all virtually at the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit 2022. I have been working closely with Merck Foundation since 2020 to define the right strategy to build professional healthcare capacity, empower infertile women and support girl education in Malawi which is very close to my heart. So far, we have provided more than 21 scholarships to our Malawian doctors in many critical medical specialties. We have made history together with Merck Foundation by providing training to the country’s first Fertility specialists under the Merck Foundation ‘More Than a Mother’ program. Through our long-term partnership, we are looking forward to benefiting more of our doctors and nurses across the country, to be able to provide better care to our patients and our communities. Moreover, 13 women from Malawi have benefitted through Merck Foundation’s ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative. Through the Foundation’s ‘Educating Linda’ program; 40 best performing girls have benefited from an education grant to continue their education from the secondary school until graduation. This is a huge milestone to empower our young girls. Other than this, Merck Foundation has helped us provide 3000 sets of essential school items to school students, especially girls.”
H.E. BAZOUM HADIZA MABROUK, The First Lady of Republic of Niger and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” expressed, “This is the first time to join and become a member of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit; I am very happy to hear all my dear sisters talk about their success stories and the impact of Merck Foundation’s programs in their countries. So far, more than 25 scholarships have been provided to young doctors of Niger in the fields of Oncology, Fertility & Embryology and Diabetes Care. Additionally, 3,000 sets of essential school items have been provided to our school girls to help them with their education. I am looking forward to an important and long-term partnership with Merck Foundation to capitalize on their valuable programs by scaling them up nationwide to contribute to the social and economic development of Niger.”
H.E. Dr AISHA MUHAMMADU BUHARI, The First Lady of Republic of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” and President of African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM) emphasized, “I deeply value our partnership with Merck Foundation who has led the way to build healthcare capacity and provide specialty training to our local doctors so that they can provide the quality healthcare in Nigeria since 2015 . I recently met my dear sister Senator Rasha Kelej at Merck Foundation office to discuss the progress of our ongoing programs and the new initiatives. I am proud that we have been able to provide 32 scholarships to young Nigerian doctors in several critical and underserved specialties including Fertility & Embryology, Diabetes, Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual & Reproductive Medicine, Respiratory Medicine and Clinical Microbiology & infectious diseases. All these fields are very critical to our country and will definitely help us strengthen our public healthcare sector, moreover providing scholarship grants to school girls to continue their education and reach their potential which is very close to my heart.”
H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Republic of Sierra Leone and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” stated, “I am very happy with Merck Foundation’s efforts to build healthcare capacity and address health challenges in my country. I have been associated with Merck Foundation since 2018 and in a short span of time, we have been able to transform the public healthcare sector in my country in various underserved and critical specialties. Till today more than 40 scholarships have been provided to our doctors in the fields of Oncology, Embryology & Fertility, Sexual and Reproductive Health Medicine, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Orthopaedics, Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Clinical Psychiatry, Dermatology, Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine, Respiratory Medicine and Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine. We are making history along with Merck Foundation by providing training for the First Oncologists in the country with the aim to establish the first skilled cancer care team that can improve access to quality and equitable cancer care in the country. I am looking forward to work closely with Merck Foundation in order to further advance the healthcare capacity in my country.”
H.E. Dr AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Republic of Zimbabwe and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” said, “I would like to acknowledge the valuable partnership my country shares with Merck Foundation over the years we have been working together to advance healthcare capacity in Zimbabwe. I am very pleased that we have been able to provide more than 85 scholarships to young Doctors from the country in various critical and under-served specialties. We have certainly been able to re-shape the landscape of the public healthcare sector in my country. I am looking forward to all the exciting initiatives we have in the pipeline with Merck Foundation to transform the lives of people every day with a special focus on media training, different awards, children storybooks, girl education, childless women empowerment and breaking the Infertility stigma.”
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Paying to get paid: Young Zimbabweans trade money, sex for jobs – New Zimbabwe.com
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By Al Jazeera
Experts say a series of monumental economic mistakes led Zimbabwe down a path of acute unemployment, forcing job seekers to engage in unethical recruitment processes.
Harare, Zimbabwe – As soon as Norman Chisunga arrived in Harare in February 2019 from his rural home in Murehwa, an hour north, he knew he needed a job urgently.
He figured his uncle, a trader in Mbare, the oldest high-density suburb of the capital, would not put up with him for long without a job.
And 24-year old Chisunga, who got his high school diploma in 2017, was also desperate for a job, like most of his compatriots. “I wanted any kind of job,” he told Al Jazeera. “There just weren’t any.”
Zimbabwe is in the grips of an economic crisis characterised by a nosediving local currency, inflation, weakening purchasing power, a foreign currency shortage, low production and unemployment of up to 90 percent.
The country – which adopted the US dollar in 2009 to end runaway inflation – had reintroduced the Zimbabwe dollar in 2019, but the local currency is rapidly devaluing against the dollar. Currently, the exchange rate is 400 Zimbabwe dollars to $1.
In April, inflation was approximately 100 percent.
The economic situation has led to unemployment – around 90 percent – and most of the country’s 14 million people do some sort of informal work to earn a living, finding a job is a herculean task.
“I went to the government’s Civil Service Commission and was told there is [a] backlog of applicants and I am applicant 55,210,” sociology graduate Tariro Makanyera told Al Jazeera.
Demands for money or sexual favours
A few weeks after arriving in the Zimbabwean capital, Chisunga’s luck turned around when his uncle found him a job at a local fertiliser manufacturing firm.
But there was a catch; Chisunga would have to pay a “little something”, a euphemism for a bribe, to get the job. It was an offer he could not afford to turn down. “I did not want to go back to the rural areas,” he told Al Jazeera.
For a six-month contract, Chisunga needed to pay $100.“For a six-week contract, I paid $30 [12,000 Zimbabwe dollars at the current black market rate].”
He ended up paying to stay at the fertiliser company for more than a year, carrying 50kg (110-pound) bags of fertiliser on his back daily.
Al Jazeera interviewed a number of young Zimbabweans who said that they had paid to get a job or knew someone who had paid to be recruited.
“I wanted a job at a supermarket and the manager wanted $50 to recruit me as a till operator. I didn’t have the $50 at the time but I really wanted the job,” Tayanana Kuteura, a 24-year old beauty therapist who now works as a shop attendant in the capital, told Al Jazeera.
Young women like Kuteura are sometimes asked to sleep with their male job recruiters.
“I encountered another similar situation in Zvishavane. I was offered a job to manage one of the big canteens there but I had to sleep with the owner. I didn’t take the job,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I know a girl who was infected with HIV [because] she wanted a job,” Kuteura added. “The owner of a new supermarket chain offered her a job for sex. She agreed, got a car and became a manager. But she is now HIV positive.”
Harare-based independent political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said it was tragic that women are forced to have sexual relations with men for jobs, but also pointed out that there are no “mitigation, complaints mechanisms” to deal with this problem. Investigations, he added, “are very weak that no one bothers to take it up with authorities.”
The demand for jobs across Zimbabwe has led to connected, well-positioned people cashing in on the country’s economic crisis to make a quick buck.
A fixer known as Banga works with a top manager at the fertiliser company. He has agents who look for clients in different places and collect bribes from the job seekers to pass on to the manager.
“When you arrive at the company after paying, your job will be waiting for you, Chisunga told Al Jazeera. “The shop floor guys are also in on it, I guess.”
Once-thriving companies have either shut down or are operating below 50 percent of their installed capacity on antiquated equipment, a far cry from the days when Zimbabwe was a promising industrial hub with manufacturing clusters in Southern Africa.
Correspondingly, there are even fewer jobs to go around, making people more desperate. So Chisunga is one of thousands of youths trapped in a cycle of paying to be paid.
“After every six weeks, they were new people. The new people would also pay the $30 for the jobs,” Chisunga said.
“I am sure he [the fixer] was making a lot of money from that. There just was a lot of us coming and going after every six weeks and more when the tobacco selling season opens.”
Zimbabwe’s tobacco selling season opens from March to about August annually and then fertiliser companies set up depots at auction floors to sell fertilisers to the tobacco farmers.
Because they need more manpower, it creates fresh opportunities for fixers to bring in more people – and take their cuts.
In some cases, jobs are reserved for relatives of those in management positions, a regular occurrence in the Zimbabwean labour market.
In a 2021 report on the prevalence of nepotism in the workplace by Industrial Psychology Consultants (IPC), a leading human resources consultancy firm in Zimbabwe, 27.39 percent of participants indicated that there was a high prevalence of nepotism in their organisations.
“The medical services industry is rated as having the highest prevalence of nepotism at 52 percent, followed by the FMCG sector at 42 percent and Media at 40 percent,” the report read.
Experts say the country’s current economic situation has made it a fertile ground for such unethical labour practices.
“Kids born say around 1997 or at the turn of the millennium have never experienced economic normalcy and yet they have their own aspirations,” said Godfrey Kanyenze, founding director of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe.
“Given the tight labour market, the poverty in the country, the corruption that is there, people become desperate and pay bribes for jobs.
Kanyenze told Al Jazeera that a series of monumental economic mistakes including but not limited to the economic Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1990s, the country’s involvement in war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and land reforms at the turn of the millennium have contributed to the current situation.
“We have not been able to address these legacy issues,” he said. “The economic situation was averted by the adoption of the US dollar and the GNU. Now we are back to square one.”
For now, young Zimbabwean jobseekers consider their ordeal a rite of passage, and a necessary evil.
“If I had not paid something for the job, I never would have gotten it,” said Chisunga. “Some of my age mates are still looking for a job and [I] don’t know that there are straight jobs any more.”
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