Luanda, Angola - 21 June 2002: Angola's first, nation-wide round of synchronised, cross-border Polio National Immunisation Days (NIDs) for 2002 will take place from 21-23 June. Targeting over 3 million children under 5 years of age, the Polio NIDs are led by the Angolan Ministry of Health with the full involvement of provincial governments and municipal administrations. Angola remains one of only 10 countries in the world in which the wild polio-virus is still present, while today, Europe is being declared polio-free.
For the first time in years, the signing of the cease-fire agreement on 4 April 2002 has opened up areas throughout Angola previously inaccessible for Polio NID campaigns due to conflict. The opportunity now exists to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children in these newly accessible areas and in quartering & family areas - children who for years have been unreachable.
"Approximately 30,000 volunteers will participate in the Polio NIDs including: 18,800 vaccinators, 5,000 Girl and Boy Scouts, 2,000 mobilizers, 1,900 supervisors, 1,500 traditional leaders and 300 area co-ordinators", according to Dr Fatima Valente, Co-ordinator of the Ministry of Health's National Expanded Programme of Immunisation. "Together, with the Ministry of Health, they will vaccinate children in 150 newly accessible municipalities, 37 quartering & family areas as well as children in internally displaced persons camps and rural and urban areas all over Angola. The Polio NIDs campaign strategy focuses on proactive door to door vaccinations to ensure that every child is reached. "
"Together with our partners, we are working hard and are close to eradicating polio in Angola", says Mario Ferrari, UNICEF Angola Representative. "When we do, it will not only be a victory for Angolan children, but for all the world's children."
"The NIDs are a priority for all polio eradication initiative partners", says Dr Paolo Balladelli, WHO Angola Representative. "They are also an important mechanism which can reinforce and integrate primary health care services to reduce child and maternal mortality and morbidity in Angola."
As a result of improved epidemiological surveillance and the quality of NIDs, there has been a significant reduction in the number of polio cases in Angola since the last outbreak occurred in 1999. Only one case of polio was confirmed in Angola by laboratory testing in 2001, in Lunda Sul Province. So far in 2002, no wild polio-virus cases have been confirmed in Angola by laboratory testing.
This substantial progress is the result of extensive efforts of the Ministry of Health that has worked in close partnership with WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, USAID, CDC-Atlanta and CORE, among other partners. Financial support is also provided by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Japan, United States, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Canada, Portugal and by private sector companies. This coalition is making a tremendous joint effort to interrupt transmission of the wild polio-virus by the end of 2002 and to eradicate polio from Angola by 2005.
WHO Angola provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Health at the central and provincial level in the formulation of policies, strategies and operational and micro-planning.
Technical staff assist in immunisation activities, logistics, monitoring and evaluation of campaigns, epidemiological surveillance, social mobilisation, advocacy, fund-raising and the capacity building of national staff.
UNICEF Angola has been the only provider of all oral polio vaccines for the Polio NIDs, sub-NIDs, mopping-up campaigns and routine immunisation in Angola since 1997. This year, UNICEF has provided 17 million polio vaccines to the Ministry of Health along with cold chain equipment. UNICEF contributes technical support to the Ministry of Health to apply new methodologies for quality improvement, coverage assessment and micro-planning of the NIDs and also supports media-oriented social mobilisation initiatives, using radio dissemination as the primary strategy to reach populations throughout the country.
Angola's cross-border Polio NIDs are being conducted in synchronisation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Namibia as well as with Gabon, Congo and Sao Tome & Principe. The second and third rounds of the synchronised, cross-border Polio NIDs in Angola will be held in July and August 2002.
For further information, contact:
UNICEF Angola: Kent Page (2442) 331-010
WHO Angola: Jose Caetano (2442) 332-398
UNICEF Geneva: Wivina Belmonte (4122) 909-5509
WHO Geneva: Christine McNab (4122) 791-4688
WHO AFRO Samuel Ajibola (1321) 953-9378
UNICEF ESARO: Madeline Eisner: (2542) 622-214
UNICEF New York: Jo Bailey (1212) 326-7566