Zimbabwe has become the first country to launch a landmark plan, known as the “Call to Action,” outlining key steps to reduce the threat posed by the H1N1 flu pandemic, the United Nations health agency has announced.
More than 300,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu have been reported in 191 countries and territories, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to nearly 4,000 deaths.
Zimbabwe was chosen as the first country to apply the Call to Action because of the experiences faced, and lessons learned, from its 2008-09 cholera outbreak that infected almost 100,000 people and killed 4,000, WHO said in a news release.
“The country has learned a lot from the cholera outbreak,” said Custodia Mandlhate, WHO’s Representative to Zimbabwe. “It has developed systems that will prevent a cholera outbreak of such a scale ever happening again. And the same system will be instrumental in protecting the public from the impact of this new H1N1 pandemic.”
One of the main principles of the Call to Action is that the impact of the pandemic is likely to be more severe in countries with weak health systems, poor health status, and limited resources.
It describes measures to identify populations at increased risk of disease and death, to reduce death by treating acute respiratory illness and pneumonia, to reduce the spread of the disease, to continue critical services and plan for the worst case scenario, and to plan and coordinate efforts among all actors.
Zimbabwe has drawn up its own proposed H1N1 pandemic preparedness and response plan and has committed, at the end of a two-day meeting held in Harare yesterday, to apply the measures laid out in the Call to Action to its own national plan.
The Call to Action was first launched in August and was initiated by WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).