LUANDA, 11 September 2002 - Angolan children from 6 months to 14 years old will be vaccinated during a massive campaign implemented by the Ministry of Health as part of the Government Strategic Plan for the Reduction of Measles Mortality. The campaign was made possible with the support of UNICEF, WHO and other partners.
Measles remains the main vaccine preventable cause of children under 5 mortality in Angola. It is estimated that between 7,700 to 15,000 deaths of children under five are attributable each year to measles infections. Transmission of the disease is accelerated in Angola by massive and continuous population movements from rural to urban areas. The concentration of large numbers of people in the cities and IDP camps is also a major cause of high rates of transmission. In urban areas non-vaccinated children contract the disease in their first years of life.
The emergency vaccination campaign which began on 9 September throughout the country aims to vaccinate 172 000 children aged between 6 months and 14 years and to ensure that all children under one year of age receive their routine vaccination. These measures are expected to significantly reduce measles mortality in the 35 family reception areas (FRA).
Dr. Ana Vaz, Chief of the Hygiene and Epidemiology Cabinet of the Department of Public Health explained: "Measles is an infectious disease, recognizable by symptoms such as fever, conjunctivitis, and the appearance of white or bluish-white mouth sores. Between the third and the seventh day, spots will appear on the patient face, which will then spread to the rest of the body. This skin condition can last for four to seven days and cause significant pealing."
Dr. Ana Vaz also said that further complications can occur, these can include ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, encephalitis, and larynx-trachea-bronchitis.
This is the second intervention against measles in the family reception areas. The first obtained an average vaccination coverage of only 55 %.
Dr. Jorge Mariscal, UNICEF Angola's special consultant for Vaccination said: "To drastically decrease the transmission rate of measles, at least 90% of the population should be immunized against the disease. This second round of vaccination will allow a high quality of emergency vaccination. The children not covered in the first round will be vaccinated and the immunity response of those already vaccinated will increase".
Emergency vaccination activities will be extended until the 20th of September. These activities are part of an Operational Plan set up by a group of experts which include the Ministry of Health, the Joint Civil-Military Commission, WHO and UNICEF. ECHO funded the campaign with a donation of 134,000 US dollars. The reason for this intervention is that the majority of the children living in the reception areas have never been vaccinated and are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
The peace agreement signed in April this year allowed access to all of the Angolan population and effective implementation of the Angolan Government's health policy that prioritizes high impact preventive actions. In this scenario, the work of UNICEF, WHO and other National and International partners is also made easier in terms of resource mobilization, and complements the efforts of the entire Nation.
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For more information on UNICEF Angola activities, please contact:
Patricia Cervantes or Jose Luis Mendonca in Luanda:
Tel: 2442) 331-010