Matching Fund partner ARK works to defeat rotavirus

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ARK launches first comprehensive anti-diarrhoea programme in Zambia 

ARK Zambia

Carol Mutinta with daugher Jemima, who recently recovered from severe diarrhoea, in Kaunda Square Township, Lusaka, Zambia. Photo credit: ARK/Gareth Bentley/2012

Can every child be saved from the ravages of rotavirus, a disease that causes diarrhea, which WHO says kills more children globally than malaria, AIDS and measles combined?

A nimble and creative children’s organisation – one that has partnered with the GAVI Matching Fund – is intent on defeating this killer disease. Absolute Return for Kids (ARK) has taken the first steps to ensure that in Zambia, where diarrhoea ranges among the top three childhood killers, appropriate treatment and life-saving vaccines start making their way to children.

Anti-diarrhoea initiative

ARK has launched its own programme in Zambia, the first comprehensive anti-diarrhoea initiative in sub-Saharan Africa, targeting rotavirus. The key is access to treatment, breast feeding and proper hygiene. Dubbed “The Programme for Awareness and Elimination of Diarrhoea,” the programme is worth US$ 12.2 million, mobilising support from both public and private sector actors.

The funds will be used to vaccinate more than 750,000 Zambian children against rotavirus by 2015, train 560 new health workers and support community education programmes that help parents understand how to prevent their children from falling victim to diarrhoea.

Ultimately, ARK’s aim is to demonstrate a model that could be adopted nationwide by the national government and, eventually, throughout Africa to create sustainable vaccine, treatment and educational programmes favoured by GAVI.

This programme shows it is more than possible to overcome the challenges of a resource-constrained world by working together more effectively.

Charles Abani, Director, ARK International

The Matching Fund

What’s more, ARK’s support for the GAVI Alliance through a US$ 3.2 million (£2 million) contribution to the Matching Fund (doubled by the British Government) is making a significant contribution to the effort by ensuring that longer-term support for rotavirus vaccination progammes throughout the continent. Just last year, GAVI launched in Sudan the first rotavirus vaccine outside of Latin America and is slated to introduce rotavirus in a dozen African countries over the coming few years.

The ARK programme is supported in part by both the British Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, each of which also supports the GAVI Matching Fund. ARK has been working closely with the Zambian Ministry of Health and the Centre for Infectious Disease Research, a local non-profit, to build capacity for a national rollout of the rotavirus immunisation programme.

Vaccines

"ARK's hard work in Zambia will have a huge impact on tackling diarrhoea, one of the major killers of children under the age of five in poor countries,” says Andrew Mitchell, British Secretary of State for International Development. “Vaccinations are one of the best buys in development.”

GAVI has assisted the Government of Zambia in various capacities since 2002, with support for new and underused vaccines (such as pentavalent), immunisation services, health system strengthening and injection safety.

“This programme shows it is more than possible to overcome the challenges of a resource-constrained world by working together more effectively," says ARK International Director Charles Abani. “Preventable diseases are just that - preventable. To be the generation that ends their toll on children's lives, we need to rapidly adopt and scale-up new ways of working together.”

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