Angola, 31 March 2011: Angola moves ahead in its efforts to kick polio out of the country
SAURIMO, Angola, 31 March 2011 - The eyes of Isabel Zita Motinha started to shine and blink when she found out that it would be the Vice President of the Republic of Angola, Fernando Piedade Dias dos Santos, who would immunize her son at the Kakolo municipal hospital.
“Today is very a happy day for me and my child,” Motinha said. “I will meet the Vice President and he will give the polio vaccine to my baby to prevent him from falling sick with calepa [the name for paralysis in the local Tchokwe language)].”
During his official visit to the Eastern province of Lunda Sul on Friday, the Vice President launched the first of three rounds of National Polio Immunization campaigns planned for 2011. Through these campaigns, which target all children under the age of 5 years, the country aims to stop further transmission of the virus in the country.
In 2010, Angola registered 33 new polio cases, with the Eastern provinces of Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte accounting for more than 30 percent of the case load. Indices of rejection were particularly high in these provinces. However, thanks to strengthened partnerships with traditional leaders and healers as well as with the churches the last sub-national immunization round held in February 2011 already led to a significant increase of coverage from 69 percent in august 2010 to 96 percent.
“The involvement of the Vice President demonstrates the political commitment of the Government of Angola towards polio eradication,” said José Van-Dunen, Angola’s Minister of Health. “The whole society has been mobilized in order to reach every last child.”
Immunization remains the only proven way to stop polio transmission, which is why improving coverage is at the heart of national and global strategies. However, because polio is transmitted primarily through the fecal-oral route, environmental contamination can contribute to the spread of the virus and other diseases. As a result, improving sanitation and access to safe water are major areas of concern in Angola as well.
Polio was on the brink of elimination in Angola at the end of 2004, after the country experienced three consecutive years without new cases. Then, in 2005, the country experienced an outbreak due to importation of the wild poliovirus from India. This virus has continued to circulate since then and the country is now classified as having re-established transmission. In 2010, Angola had one of the largest polio caseloads in Africa and its cases have also spread across the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2010, as well in previous years to other neighboring countries, including Namibia and Burundi.
As a response, the Government along with its partners in the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee (ICC) developed a five-year immunization plan (2009-2013) as well as a strategy for accelerated supplementary campaigns, targeting at least 5.6 million children under five years of age in every round. The Government strategies and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Strategic Plan 2010-2012 aim at interrupting polio transmission in Angola by the end of June 2011.
About the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. It is supported by donors including the Government of Japan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the launch of the GPEI in 1988, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 percent. In 1988, more than 350,000 children were paralysed each year in more than 125 endemic countries. In 2010, there were 1,294 cases globally. Only four countries remain endemic: India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The GPEI continues to face a funding gap of US$720 million to eradicate polio globally by 2013. For more information visit www.polioeradication.org.
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