The five-year USAID activity was launched on Wednesday by Nassor Ahmed Mazrui, Minister for Health, Social Welfare, Elders, Gender and Children who echoed for the islanders to voluntarily go for COVID-19 vaccination.
“Health workers should be in the forefront in the vaccination crusade but unfortunately most of the doctors and nurses have not taken the jab,” Mazrui asserted, imploring all health workers to take the vaccines.
He warned that although the vaccination remains optional, ‘it is a compulsory option’. He likened COVID-19 vaccination to marriage, “We are all told marriage is optional but opt not to marry and see what will happen to you.”
Mazrui said the country needs at least 60 per cent of its population vaccinated to convince investors and tourists that Zanzibar is a safe place to invest and visit.
“If we really want investors and tourists for job creation, let’s vaccinate or else investors and tourists will be scared to visit,” he argued.
Hardly 35,000 Zanzibaris equivalent to 3.5 per cent of its adult population of about 1,000,000 people have so far taken the jab, he said.
The minister thanked the 687m/- project funders and implementers—the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and BMF for the support, which he said has come at an opportune time.
Under the support, 100 health workers have been hired on a nine-month contract to intensify the fight against the deadly coronavirus. The new recruits will be deployed in the entry points, especially airports and seaports.
“But, we firmly believe that the new employees will as well help in addressing other health related challenges, which haunt the country,” minister Mazrui said, admitting that the country still faces acute shortage of between 1,500 and 2,000 health workers.
The minister asked project partners—USAID and BMF to work closely with the government in addressing a myriad of challenges in the health sector. He cited retention of health workforce as a serious problem in the country.
“We look forward for sustained close relationship in supervision of employees in the health sector; employment is one thing and productive and efficient performance is quite another,” said the minister.
BMF Chief Executive Officer Dr Ellen Mkondya-Senkoro said the newly recruited 100 employees have received training and deployed to 33 heath facilities and entry points to boost health service delivery, identification and referrals for COVID-19 patients as well as campaigning for COVID vaccination.
She said the project, which started in February 2020, has hired 1,063 health workers in various categories in 103 district and town councils’ 499 health centres in 16 regions of Tanzania mainland.
Increased voluntary testing for HIV/AIDS, adherence to the use of antiretroviral drugs and strengthened maternal and child health care are among the inspiring outcomes of the project, Dr Senkoro said, hinting that the government offered permanent jobs to 40 out of the 1,063 health workers in the project.
She as well asked the Zanzibar government to incorporate the 100 new health workers into the government employment to sustain the services even after the expiry of the project.
USAID Health Office Director, Ananthy Thambinayagam said the Zanzibar’s ministry of health and USAID are embarking on a new partnership to allocate, build capacity of the health workforce and create awareness to respond to the country’s priority public health needs.
“A robust and adequately equipped health workforce is essential for continued advancement and sustained provision of quality health care and emergency responses like COVID-19,” she said, adding: “USAID supports investments in the health workforce because strong and capable human resources for health save lives, especially now with COVID-19 pandemic.”
Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry (Zanzibar) Dr Fatma Mrisho reminded the new workers to work hard and diligently to bring changes, “We want outcome, and there should be a visible difference between your presence and absence.”