HomeLocal NewsRefugees shun vaccination

Refugees shun vaccination

KENNETH MATIMAIRE

THERE is a disturbingly low uptake of vaccination doses at the Tongogara Refugee Camp with a mere 0,8% of the total population jabbed, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.

Information gathered indicates that only 116 vaccine doses have been administered at the camp with 67 refugees being recipients of the first dose.

This is against the 15 052 refugee population drawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

“Only 67 persons have received the first dose, 49 persons the second dose. This is 0,8% of the population. The community has shown vaccine hesitancy. They feel that they are too isolated from the major hotspots to be at great threat,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) country representative Abdouyale Barry said.

The hesitancy comes at a time when the government has ensured that refugees are fully integrated into the national Covid-19 response system.

While refugees feel isolated from Covid-19 hotspots, UNHCR, in an earlier interview acknowledged that “new arrivals coming from across several borders were a potential threat to the refugee population already living in the camp”.

Statistics indicate that 321 new arrivals have been received at the camp since February last year.

This has seen a total of 17 cumulative confirmed cases being recorded, with nine emanating from new arrivals.

“The numbers are thus 17 cumulative cases,” said Barry.

A quarantine centre was established at the camp to house new arrivals. At the quarantine centre, new arrivals are tested for Covid-19 and released after a negative result and completion of 14 days quarantine.

Investigations highlighted that there are new arrivals currently quarantined at the centre.

The low uptake of vaccines within the camp comes at a time when the country is now vaccinating people at a rate of 40 000 doses per day, according to data from the ministry of Health and Child Care.

Nearly one million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 out of over 1,5 million vaccine doses administered at a time 73 271 confirmed cases and 2 274 deaths have been recorded.

Several regional and global states such as South Africa and Australia have praised the country’s vaccination exercise.

However, critics have argued that the statistics paint a different picture when broken down to specific areas, with Tongogara being a case in point.

According to international health experts, there is a need for customised and targeted Covid-19 awareness for effective results.

“The masses do not clearly understand the messages about Covid-19 in the English language, therefore the campaign must be in the language of their own,” said Global Shapers Community Faisalabad Hub.

The community hub further indicated that while fliers were effective, there was also a need to engage religious and community influencers to complement video and radio campaigns in native languages.

UNHCR indicated that “information posters were pasted in public places in local languages” within the wider refugee community.

Section 29 (3) of the Constitution states that, “the State must take all preventative measures within the limits of the resources available to it, including education and public awareness programmes, against the spread of diseases.”

The refugee camp is located in Chipangayi area of Chipinge District, Manicaland Province, some 550 kilometres south-east of Harare. The camp sits on about 800 hectares.

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