Dr Charles Holmes, CIDRZ CEO, addresses dignitaries including Honourable Minister of Community Development Mother and Child Health and Japanese Ambassador at the JICA Handover Ceremony of Solar Vaccine Refrigerators, Lusaka, 15th October 2014
“It is a great privilege to be here representing CIDRZ – the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia – to witness and celebrate a momentous occasion as the Government of the Republic of Zambia accepts the handover of solar refrigerators from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA. These refrigerators will provide the vaccine cold chain storage that will enable life-saving vaccines to be available at rural health facilities.
Far right: CIDRZ CEO Dr Charles Holmes congratulating JICA at handover ceremony for Solar Vaccine Refrigerators. Present: Japanese Ambassador Mr. Kiyoshi Koinuma, JICA Country Rep. Mr. Yoshihide Teranishi, Hon. Minister of Community Development Mother and Child Health, Mrs Emerine Kabanshi, Hon. Deputy Minister, Ingrid Mpande, UNICEF Rep. Mr. Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, Lusaka District Medical Officer Dr Masumba Masaninga, Child Health Unit Directors and Provincial Health Officers
Worldwide, there is focus on the importance of delivering life-saving vaccines to all children. In May of 2011 Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, addressed the World Health Assembly with an aggressive call-to-action to seize the opportunity of what he calls the “Decade of Vaccines.” Mr Gates described how achieving a few basic goals: eradication of polio, building capable systems to deliver vaccines to every child, and making new vaccines available to all children around the world, “can save 4 million lives by 2015 and 10 million lives by 2020.”
The Government of the Republic of Zambia is also focused on introducing new vaccines into their routine immunisation programme, as well as to strengthen the national Expanded Programme on Immunisations. At a speech delivered in Livingstone this June, Honourable Minister of Community Development Mother and Child Health, Emerine Kabanshi said, “I am proud to inform you that we have recently introduced three life-saving infant vaccines to our national immunisation programme: pneumococcal vaccine, second dose measles vaccine, and the rotavirus vaccine. To achieve such an expansion of a national programme in a single year is a great achievement and we are now working hard, and allocating appropriate resources, to ensure that no Zambian child dies from preventable diseases by ensuring that the required cold chain infrastructure is in place, vaccines are ordered on time, and access is guaranteed – especially for the hard-to-reach families who invariably are at greatest risk.”
Ladies and gentlemen, CIDRZ is pleased to be a part of this celebration today. Four years ago, we set out on a mission to contribute to the reduction in Zambian child deaths through a targeted preventive and control effort against diarrhoea. We worked with the Government to start the Programme for the Awareness and Elimination of Diarrhoea- a pilot demonstration project working through the Government to promote community awareness, to teach improved case management of diarrhoea in health facilities, and to introduce the rotavirus vaccine into the national immunisation programme. This work has been successful on many counts, and there is no doubt that hundreds of diarrhoea cases have been prevented. However these achievements were not done alone; they required strong commitment, collaboration and partnership across all sectors and stakeholders working in this area.
CIDRZ has been working alongside Government, JICA, UNICEF, W.H.O. and other key partners to mobilise resources, and to develop and implement plans to strengthen all aspects of the vaccine cold chain system—including embarking on a national Effective Vaccine Management assessment to look at storage capacity, temperature monitoring, buildings and equipment, maintenance, stock control, distribution and overall vaccine management.
But today, we are celebrating an achievement of an even greater initiative that also could not be done alone. I cannot emphasise enough the benefit that can take place when we work as a true unit. I urge everyone to emulate the model that the Zambian Government and its partners are demonstrating here today – a truly collaborative effort – Governments, donors, non-profits, international organisations, the private sector, academia, civil society and communities.
Minister Kabanshi, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, today JICA delivers to the country solar refrigerators to further bring a dream to fruition that every Zambian child will have access to life-saving vaccines. Thank you to JICA and to all who have helped in this important collaboration. It is important for us to identify what this celebration today is really all about—the children—the Zambian children who will gain access to vaccines and whose lives will be spared. We are eager to begin seeing the benefits and health impacts of this access to vaccines in our communities. Let us mark this day as an important step towards achieving this goal.
I thank you.
Dr. Charles B. Holmes, MD, MPH