Zambia's Minister of Health, Dr Kasonde, cut the ribbon to mark the official handing over of four new cold storage facilities to the Ministry of Health in Lusaka last Tuesday. 800 cubic metres have been added to the national capacity with ARK funding half of the expansion. Zambia is now equipped to safely store vast quantities of new and existing vaccines, a major step towards securing children's health in the country.
The cold chain expansion is a vital part ARK's diarrhoeal programme in Zambia, the first programme in sub-Saharan Africa to combine prevention with treatment. Working with a range of public and private sector partners, including the Ministry of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), and the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), we are tackling the disease in three ways; vaccinating babies against rotavirus; training new and existing health workers, and working with communities so they have the knowledge and basic medicines needed to keep their children healthy.
By 2015, we hope to have halved diarrhoeal deaths in children in programme areas. A key component will be vaccinating over 750,000 children against rotavirus, an easily-transmitted virus responsible for as many as a third of diarrhoeal deaths in children.
Every year, diarrhoea causes more deaths in children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined, yet its treatment and prevention still attract relatively little investment.