Angola, 13 March 2012: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends Angola’s first polio eradication campaign of the year
By Yolanda Correia
LUANDA, Angola, 13 March 2012 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the first polio eradication campaign of 2012 in Angola this week. Community health workers and volunteers are mobilizing to vaccinate more than six million children under the age of five throughout the country.
“We have to give everyone immunity against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases. We have to do everything possible to reach every Angolan child,” said Mr. Ban.
Stopping the spread of polio
Nirakar Panda, a Communications Specialist with Stop Transmission Polio Team in Angola, a UNICEF partner, contracted polio as a young child. As a result, he experienced physical difficulties and discrimination throughout his life.
“It is a great personal interest that I have to help eradicate polio in Angola,” said Mr. Panda. Today, he is working to spread the message about polio immunization in order to prevent other children from living a similar painful experience.
Mr. Panda has also worked in India, his home country, where he volunteered on a government project organizing polio campaign events and vaccination posts. India was just taken off the World Health Organization’s list of polio-endemic countries last week. “Now I want to help other countries, like Angola, to follow in India’s footsteps and also be free from the damaging effects of polio,” he said.
Progress being made
The last recorded case of polio in Angola was seven months ago, in July 2011. This gives hope to all partners involved in polio eradication efforts that immunization campaigns and messages are working.
Polio eradication is a global emergency. The disease is highly infectious, spreading easily across borders, and Angola is one of the few the world that continues to have active polio transmission. The disease reemerged in Angola in 2005, after years of absence, and spread into previously un-infected countries and areas.
But progress is being made. In 2010, 33 cases of polio were reported in six of the 18 provinces in Angola; in 2011, only five cases were reported in just two provinces.
“We see the results. Fewer children are being paralyzed in fewer places,” said Mr. Ban. “Many provinces have gone more than a year without a single case.”
The current campaign is taking place nationwide with particular emphasis on areas that require special and urgent attention, such as the border provinces and the capital Luanda.
More stories from Angola
More on polio eradication