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Immunization

Kicking polio out of Africa

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Angola: Immunization Day, June 2000

Over three decades of armed conflict have left the children of Angola more at risk than children in any other country in the world. UNICEF's 1999 Progress of Nations “child risk measure” determined this through a weighting of health, nutrition, education, HIV/AIDS and exposure to war. Angola’s under-five mortality rate is 260 per 1,000 live births. Poverty and the breakdown of traditional community and family social structures have reduced the Angolan people's capacity to take care of children.

National Immunization Days (NIDs) were held in June, July and August, 2000, to vaccinate children under five against polio. Over a two-day period in June, some 22,000 health workers from the Angolan Ministry of Health, the Angolan Armed Forces and UNICEF and its partners immunized some 3 million children. The NIDs were funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, USAID, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), De Beers and Odebrecht (a Brazilian construction company).

Thousands of Boy Scout volunteers, such as 16-year-old Francisco (disabled by polio himself), were recruited to hand out polio immunization information leaflets like “Epa!” and “Xe!” These cartoons helped raise public awareness of the importance and timing of the polio vaccination campaign and tried to answer people’s questions before the immunization began. The next day vaccinators went from house to house asking mothers whether their children had been immunized against polio. If they had not, they immunized them on the spot.

The last case of polio in Angola was reported in September, 2001.