ONSE Health Activity Steps in After Fire Destroys Vaccine Depot

 {Photo Credit: MSH}Fire due to a power surge erupts at Mangochi District Hospital in Malawi, destroying critical vaccine supplies.Photo Credit: MSH

When a fire recently destroyed the Maternal and Child Health block of Mangochi District Hospital in Malawi, vaccines intended for the more than 45,000 children and an equal number of pregnant women that the hospital serves were destroyed. The vaccine depot housed in this block supports the distribution of vaccines to 44 fixed sites and 312 outreach sites for administration to children and pregnant women as part of the National Expanded Program on Immunizations (EPI).

Refrigerators, including those that stored vaccines for polio, measles, and tetanus, were also damaged in the fire. A power surge following a blackout was to blame for the April 15 fire, according to the district health officer quoted in the Nyasa Times.

This week, World Immunization Week (April 24-30), the Mangochi fire illustrates the vulnerability of vaccine storage and provision in areas with sporadic power and significant resources constraints.

[Much of the Maternal and Child Health block was completely destroyed by fire. Photo credit:MSH]Much of the Maternal and Child Health block was completely destroyed by fire. Photo credit:MSHIn response to the fire, the USAID-funded Organized Network of Services for Everyone’s (ONSE) Health Activity quickly mobilized to assist the district with the re-establishment of a temporary vaccine storage depot in Mangochi. 

ONSE collaborated with the national EPI program to arrange emergency transport of supplies and equipment from Lilongwe to Mangochi. The shipment included adequate stocks of vaccines, four refrigerators capable of storing about 8,000 vaccine vials each, cold boxes to ship the vaccines between regional storage sites and the district, vaccine carriers used to ship the vaccines to outreach clinics, and other equipment required to carry out the vaccination program.

Following this rapid response, immunization services resumed two days after the fire, including at a temporary tented site on the hospital grounds.

Across the 16 districts where ONSE works, the Activity supports the collection and distribution of EPI supplies (vaccines, gas for the cold chain) to provide to facilities. It is expected that this will contribute to increased vaccine coverage in these districts. ONSE also provides targeted supervision and mentorship on EPI.