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In Zambia, Episcopal Relief & Development builds on success of malaria-prevention work

Pneumonia vaccination program set to roll out in 2012

[Episcopal News Service, Lusaka, Zambia] Malaria, HIV/AIDS and acute diarrhea continue to be among the main health challenges in Zambia, yet pneumonia is the second leading cause of mortality among children under five in the Central African country.

Episcopal Relief & Development -- in partnership with the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Zambia's ministry for health and the Zambian Anglican Council (ZAC) -- is planning to roll out a pneumonia vaccination program in 2012, building local capacity but offering periodic guidance in combating the respiratory condition, Stephen Dsizi, technical director for NetsforLife®, told ENS during a three-day training program in Lusaka, Zambia.

Episcopal Relief & Development has worked in partnership with ZAC -- the body that represents all five dioceses and health and training institutions for the Anglican Church in Zambia – in combating malaria through the NetsforLife® program, an Episcopal Relief & Development-sponsored partnership that has won awards and earned widespread respect for saving millions of lives in Africa. The pilot project was launched in Zambia in 2005, and a decrease in malaria cases of more than 50 percent has been reported in some areas. ZAC includes three representatives from each diocese -- the bishop, one priest and one lay person.

Lori Smedley, deputy executive director for GAVI, said that the alliance's immunization programs often achieve 80 percent coverage in 57 of the world's poorest countries. However, to reach the remaining 20 percent it relies on partnerships with faith-based organizations such as Episcopal Relief & Development.

Smedley said that Episcopal Relief & Development "demonstrates best practices" in education and achieving equity where it's needed most and that the church is established in rural communities that GAVI might otherwise have trouble identifying or accessing were they not engaged in such partnerships.

"We don't want to recreate any wheels," she said, noting that Episcopal Relief & Development's work is already revered in Zambia for its malaria-prevention programs.

GAVI, which works closely with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), helps to reduce the price of vaccinations and tackle delays in them reaching the people who are most in need of immunization.

Due to previous success with its malaria prevention initiatives in Zambia and an earlier food security program that began in 2000, the ZAC and Episcopal Relief & Development partnership is a "model for the rest of Africa," Dsizi explained.

The goal for the current phase (2008-2013) of the NetsforLife® program partnership is to distribute 7 million nets in sub-Saharan Africa. So far, the program has distributed more than 4.8 million nets, trained nearly 43,000 malaria control agents and directly reached more than 9 million community members, according to Episcopal Relief & Development data.

The current pneumonia training program in Lusaka is bringing together international and local experts in health issues and representatives from relief and development organizations to prepare Zambian Anglicans for immunization against pneumonia.

The Zambia Anglican Council, under the directorship of Grace Phiri and in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, "has shown how to develop and implement projects that are a demonstration for the globe," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who participated in a portion of the training in Lusaka, told ENS.

"It's remarkable work that is integrated and holistic and serving the whole community."

-- Matthew Davies is an Episcopal News Service editor/reporter.

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