|© UNICEF Angola/2007/Muianga|
|An Angolan local leader and his family receive safe water from a UNICEF-supplied bladder to avoid waterborne cholera infection.|
By Blue Chevigny
NEW YORK, USA, 5 February 2007 – Until a year ago cholera was not a widespread problem in Angola, but in early 2006 an outbreak began and continued to grow over the subsequent months. No one was quite prepared for the scope of the crisis.
More recently, severe flooding during Angola’s rainy season has caused an increase in the number of cholera cases.
Now the Angolan Government, UNICEF and other aid organizations are in the process of addressing the current situation and improving their preparedness for future outbreaks.
Children are most vulnerable
In a phone interview from the capital, Luanda, UNICEF Representative in Angola Angela Kearney said the government is taking the lead on the cholera response, with UNICEF in close collaboration. “One of the most important things to emphasize it is that is much better to prevent the disease than to treat it,” she noted.
Children are the most vulnerable to cholera, Ms. Kearney added, with 35 per cent of cases affecting those under the age of five. And once infected, she said, children experience more dire effects than adults.
“Children dehydrate very quickly, and need early intervention,” explained Ms. Kearney.
|© UNICEF Angola/2007/Mendonca|
|Nurses outside a cholera treatment centre supported by UNICEF in Angola.|
UNICEF is participating in Angola’s cholera prevention and treatment effort on many fronts. Through radio spots broadcast throughout the country, for example, the public is being informed about how to improve hygiene practices, avoid contaminated water and recognize signs and symptoms of the disease should it occur.
To reach vulnerable populations with prevention messages, UNICEF is also creating leaflets and other educational tools for use in schools.
In addition, UNICEF has supported the distribution of safe water by bringing tankers into remote areas and distributing other water purification supplies; taken together, these efforts have reached over 200,000 people.
Treatment is an equally important element of UNICEF’s contribution to the cholera response.
“We have helped the government establish cholera treatment centres. There are nine in Luanda alone,” said Ms. Kearney. The centres provide oral rehydration packets and other lifesaving treatments benefiting the infected population, especially children.
According to Ms. Kearney, UNICEF Angola will need $4 million this year – supporting water and sanitation programmes, social mobilization and treatments such as rehydration and medicines – in order to respond adequately to the cholera outbreak and avert future crises.
5 February 2007:
UNICEF Radio correspondent Blue Chevigny talks with UNICEF Representative in Angola Angela Kearney about the effects of flooding and a cholera outbreak.